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MLS, Apple announces 10-year streaming partnership

MLS, Apple announces 10-year streaming partnership

Apple’s entry into live sports took a big step forward on Tuesday.

Apple and Major League Soccer have announced a 10-year collaboration on a streaming service that will allow fans to watch every game without local blackouts or restrictions. The service will be available exclusively through the Apple TV app from next year.

The agreement is Apple’s second investment in streaming professional sports. In April, it began airing “Friday Night Baseball,” an exclusive weekly double headline of Major League Baseball games.

“The opportunity to partner with a sports league and really build the product with them is very, very unique,” said Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of services. “We can bring the things we do very well with the things they do very well and really make the product, which I think will be significantly better for the fans. We want to create a great experience for the fans to be able to see and experience MLS like they never have had before. “

MLS Commissioner Don Garber said that Apple does not pay a rights fee, but rather a minimum guarantee against revenue that will be generated with both the sale of subscriptions.

“It’s part of what we both wanted. We do business together,” Garber said.

People with knowledge of the agreement told The Associated Press that the minimum guarantee is worth $ 250 million per year. The persons spoke on condition of anonymity because they do not have the freedom to discuss financial matters in public.

Sports Business Journal was the first to report on the minimum guarantee.

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The details of the power service will be announced in the coming months. The package will be included for fans who have health season ticket packages to their club.

Some MLS and Leagues Cup matches will be available at no extra cost to Apple TV + subscribers, with a limited number of matches also available for free.

“We really could not have found a better partner to embark on this new journey together to harness the momentum that exists in MLS today,” Garber said. “We can use this agreement as a rocket fuel when we build towards the World Cup in the USA, Canada and Mexico in 2026 and think about what the sport of football, what Major League Soccer might look like, in the years to come.”

Currently, most off-market MLS games are streamed on ESPN +, but there are blackout restrictions due to some local rights agreements. The league’s agreements with Fox Sports and ESPN expire at the end of the year. ESPN has carried games since the league started in 1996 and Fox since 2014. Garber hopes the league can reach an agreement with a broadcasting partner.

Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber, pictured in 2021, is excited about the new power deal with Apple. (Katharine Lotze / Getty Images)

Simulcast some games nationally

Even with the Apple agreement, MLS has the ability to simulcast some games nationally.

Streaming is already built into the football fans’ DNA. The league said it has found in various studies that 83% of MLS fans watch sports on streaming devices or record TV during a typical week, much higher than the overall average of 52% for all TV viewers.

What also makes the deal exciting for Apple is that MLS has the youngest and most diverse audience compared to the other four major professional North American sports leagues.

In addition to all regular and post-season matches, the package includes all Leagues Cup matches – the competition between MLS and Mexico’s League MX – as well as selected MLS NEXT Pro and MLS NEXT matches.

Apple will also work with MLS on the presentation of the matches when the league takes over production. This is another step forward for the league, but is similar in the way European football leagues do business. All matches will be called in English and Spanish, while those involving Canadian clubs will also be available in French.

All matches will also be available in Full HD (1080p) for the first time. Previously, matches were broadcast in 1080i or 720p.

Garber said the league will have a more streamlined program from next season, with most games played on Saturdays at 7pm local time and some on Wednesdays. The only time that can change is for a national broadcast or stadium conflict. The league will expand to 29 teams in 2023 with the debut of St. Louis CITY SC.

The deal comes as Apple also explores opportunities with other sports. The company has been streaming NFL games when the league’s “Sunday Ticket” expires at the end of the upcoming season.

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