MLS inks historic 10-year broadcast deal with Apple, will launch exclusive streaming service
Major League Soccer is making big waves in sports media. MLS announced on Tuesday that it's inked a historic 10-year broadcast deal with Apple, becoming the first major US sports league to sign a media rights deal with an all-digital platform. The news was first reported by Alex Silverman and John Ourand of Sports Business Journal, who also reported that the deal is worth at least $2.5 billion.
That means Apple TV will be the home of every single MLS and Leagues Cup match for the next 10 years, with no local blackouts or other restrictions. According to The Athletic, there will also be pregame, postgame and non-gameday programming.
While all matches will be available to stream on Apple TV, MLS is reportedly still negotiating with TV networks like ESPN and Fox for the rights to simulcast specific matches. But the point is to have every single MLS match available to watch in one place, something which no other major U.S. sports league currently offers. Streaming services offered by NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL only allow subscribers to watch games that are not available in their local market.
As part of this deal, Apple will launch a special subscription package only for MLS games. While some games will be free for anyone to view, MLS will essentially have a streaming service that lives within Apple TV. However, according to The Athletic, it will be separate from a regular Apple TV+ subscription, meaning that even Apple TV+ subscribers will have to pay extra to view most of the matches. That price point isn't known yet, but SBJ reported that the unnamed streaming service will be made available to all MLS season ticket holders at no additional cost.
In a relatively short time, Apple has become a big player in sports media. It signed a deal with MLB in March to exclusively broadcast one game a week on "Friday Night Baseball," which was its first serious foray into sports. Just three months later, it is now the home of every single MLS and Leagues Cup match. No one has any idea what Apple will do next, but the NFL is the next major U.S. sports league to kick off, with games starting in September. Apple was reportedly involved in negotiations to stream Thursday night football, which eventually went to Amazon. Maybe that's where they'll make a splash next.