The partnership with MLS also marks Apple’s largest foray into sports, as the tech giant seeks to build its streaming platform to compete with the likes of Netflix and Disney. The length of the deal is 10 years. Terms were not announced.
“For the first time in the history of sports, fans will be able to access everything from a major professional sports league in one place,” said Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Services, according to the news release.
The Apple-MLS deal means that even in-market fans in local markets will find their team on Apple instead of on TV. A selection of MLS games will be available through a basic Apple TV subscription; all games will be available through a supplementary subscription purchased through Apple TV. Pricing for that service was not announced.
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To date, the largest American sports leagues have tread carefully with streaming, trying to strike a balance between the traditional cable TV model that has been losing subscribers to “cord-cutting” and streaming services, where audiences are smaller. The NHL has made most of its games available on ESPN Plus, ESPN’s streaming platform, but fans in local markets still find the vast majority of their games on cable.
The NFL inked a deal with Amazon to put its Thursday night games exclusively on its Prime Video platform, though the bulk of the NFL’s schedule remains on broadcast television.
Major League Baseball has also begun experimenting with streaming windows this season, introducing a Sunday morning game exclusively on NBC’s Peacock and Friday night games exclusively on Apple TV.
Tuesday’s announcement expands Apple’s investment in sports, adding to that baseball deal and an entertainment library that includes original series like “Ted Lasso” and movies like “CODA,” which won the Academy Award for best picture this year. Apple is also expected to be involved in bidding for rights to NFL Sunday Ticket, the NFL’s package of out-of-market Sunday games.
MLS currently airs on ESPN, Fox and Univision.