One of the words that comes up about the Apple MLS deal is great. Undoubtedly, much of the press coverage of Major League Soccer’s media rights deal with Apple has been positive. And it should be like this. Apple is one of the leading brands in the world. At the same time, MLS continues to grow in size. In the same way, the league has the ambition to compete with the world’s top divisions.
MLS is currently riding the wave of referencing in the same breath as Apple. It doesn’t last forever though. There are many tough questions to solve. Specifically, they include how MLS will produce games in 2023. But ultimately, the multi-million dollar question is this: How much will MLS streaming service on Apple TV cost?
For a fan base that is comfortable with the ESPN + $ 6.99 / month price tag, which includes over 2,500 soccer games (alone) per year, what is the magic price for MLS on Apple TV?
The answer will not be available for a few months. However, we can see Major League Baseball. MLB charges a single-team subscription for $ 139.99 or $ 119.99 per season. But really, the price of MLB.TV isn’t even a comparison of apples to apples. After all, MLB.TV only includes games outside the market.
MLS streaming service on Apple TV promises over 900 games a year, what’s a fair price that consumers can agree on? At the same time, it must be a price that satisfies the investment that Apple and MLS are putting into the product. Hitting that balance is key to the future success for the consumer, Apple and MLS.
Why this Apple Groundbreaking MLS deal is a game changer
There is no doubt that the media rights agreement between Apple and MLS is great. First, it is a global contract for the Sports League. Anyone around the world can subscribe to Apple TV and watch every single game. Other sports leagues around the world are watching how this partnership between Apple and MLS unfolds. Second, this Apple-MLS deal may end up being a blueprint for what other sports leagues use. Isn’t the future of sports broadcasting controlled by sports networks? Is it, in fact, the tech giants of the future sports broadcaster?
Apart from the price, another obstacle that MLS has to overcome is the quality of the broadcast. Hopefully, Apple will play an important role in this regard. Personally, I don’t have much faith in MLS producing its own content. For the successful 2020 MLS Is Back Tournament, MLS and ESPN have worked together to pull off the broadcast miracle. However, ESPN has been instrumental in making that possible.
Problem going to make or break MLS on Apple TV
Back to the problem of dollars and cents, the price for MLS on Apple TV is going to make or break the service. If MLS and Apple start off with very expensive prices, then fans will be looking for illegal ways to watch games.
What Apple did with Major League Baseball on Friday night was a good move for MLS to follow. For the first twelve weeks of service, games have been streaming for free on the Apple TV app. It gives fans a chance to deep-dive to see what that experience looks like. This is a test of how good the production and scope is. In the first weeks of the 2023 season, MLS and Apple want the league to shine right here – on the field and in the user experience on the Apple TV app.
Find out what is wrong, or introduce a price that is too extreme, and the whole experience may collapse. But no matter how good MLS looks on Apple TV, the biggest factor is the price.
Pricing options for MLS fans
If Apple and MLS use the same model as MLB.TV, fans should choose to subscribe for the season, per game, per month, or per team.
Three major problems inherent in this need to be overcome by the league. First, the vast majority of MLS viewers are only interested in watching their team. Over the years, MLS TV ratings have proven that the league is not one of national interest. Fans tend not to tune in to watch all the teams. They have their favorite and they are the focus group.
Secondly, for fans who are casual observers of the league, they know the regular season is meaningless. The run to the playoffs doesn’t usually begin until July or August. As a result, fans can ignore the league after the opening weekend of matches and restart the watch without losing much in the summer heat.
Third and finally, there is not much to entice new fans to be interested in the league. As it stands, even Right now While not playing any European football, there are no major storylines that appeal to soccer audiences. And this is at a time when MLS is facing no competition. Imagine how MLS would do when the major European leagues reopened in six weeks.
MLS is the first of many soccer acquisitions
By itself, MLS is not a package of rights to get soccer fans to subscribe to Apple TV. However, with the combination of MLB, NFL Sunday Ticket and perhaps another upcoming soccer property (Serie A and UEFA Champions League, maybe?) In 2024/25 and beyond, Apple TV will become a much stronger, soccer player.
Major League Soccer and Apple have a 10-year partnership to maximize revenue and growth.
“It’s the minimum guarantee. It’s not a rights fee, ”MLS Commissioner Dan Garber said of the deal. “So if we exceed the minimum guarantee, we will share the upside in that guarantee.”
Garber is right. If anything, the Apple-MLS media partnership is a distribution agreement, not a rights fee.
At the same time, the deal is a risk to both MLS and Apple. Less Apple has given up their enormous financial resources. But more so for MLS, who are at risk of losing part of their current audience who are not converting to a new service. According to a recent report by Statista, Android smartphones have a 49% establishment-base in the United States. Yes, Android users can watch games on Apple TV through a web browser or app. However, it takes time and consumer education to overcome the perception that the Apple TV is only for users in the Apple ecosystem.
Questions remain about the Apple-MLS media rights deal
Still, questions remain about the MLS deal with Apple. Answers are coming in the coming months. In the meantime, consider these questions:
Is it affordable for soccer fans who have no interest in watching other teams in the league? Who is the target audience of the MLS streaming service outside of its current fan base? And will MLS’s own fans who are not season ticket holders sign up?
The MLS regular season is long overdue and takes some time to answer these questions. The sooner the MLS dismantles band-aid and exposes the price, the more everyone can care about what 2023 might look like.