Apple continues push into live sports with Major League Soccer deal

CNBC

By Kif Lewswing

Apple on Tuesday announced a 10-year deal with Major League Soccer to broadcast matches on its streaming service, the latest sign of the iPhone maker’s increased investment in exclusive content for Apple TV+.

The deal will make Apple’s app the only service where fans can watch all MLS matches without blackouts, Apple said on Tuesday. While some select matches will be available to Apple TV+ subscribers, who pay $4.99 a month, fans will have to buy a separate MLS subscription to watch all the matches. The cost of that service, which will be available globally, and the timing of its release were not disclosed.

Since launching Apple TV+ in 2019 and jumping into the heated streaming wars, Apple has been building a portfolio of original shows and movies. It’s also getting more aggressive with sports. This season, the company started broadcasting Major League Baseball games on Friday nights.

Don Garber, Commissioner of Major League Soccer, said at a press conference on Tuesday that the deal with Apple will help the league appeal to younger consumers.

“This is what they’ve asked for,” Garber said. “And we’re going to deliver them every match anywhere, anytime, anywhere around the world without any restrictions.”

Apple has taken a quality-over-quantity approach streaming. Its service doesn’t have an extensive back catalog that can compete with Netflix, Amazon Prime, or Disney+, and the company hasn’t announced viewership stats or a subscriber total.

But Apple has scored several critical hits, including “Ted Lasso,” a comedy about a goofy American soccer coach in England who was previously a college football coach in the U.S.

“We’re going to take all of the things that Apple is really good at — experiences, style, the approach we take to making great products — to this,” said Eddy Cue, Apple senior vice president of services, at Tuesday’s event.

Live sports are so popular that streaming services are bidding up the price for content that’s traditionally been the domain of pay TV. For example, Amazon broadcasts some NFL games on Prime Video in a package worth $1 billion per year.

Gary Stevenson, deputy commissioner of MLS, said the the league is taking advantage of the “greatest transition in the way sports media would be distributed since the advent of cable television,” referring to the rise of cord-cutting and proliferation of streaming services.