Apple TV+ May Get Its First Live Programing With Pac-12 College Sports

Every streaming service has room for improvement, especially when there are so many vying for the collective streaming attention of basically everyone with an Internet connection. Disney+, for example, launched without a feature that’s common on many other streaming services.

One early criticism of Apple TV+ has been that, other than The Morning Show, there isn’t much of a draw to a platform that’s a mix of included original shows and, like Amazon Prime, a portal to purchase additional movies and TV shows. But one thing that might change is exclusive live programming, and according to a story in The Wall Street Journal, the solution might be a foray into live college sports.

Executives at Apple met with representatives of MGM and the Pac-12 Conference this year as the tech giant considers ways to broaden the appeal of its Apple TV app and TV+, a $4.99 monthly service that launched last month with nine original programs. The streaming service anchors an updated TV app that offers subscriptions to Disney+ and HBO, with Apple getting a cut of sales.

Though the conversations with MGM and the Pac-12 were preliminary and have yet to reach an advanced stage, the talks show Apple’s openness to striking a multibillion-dollar content agreement in support of its TV service—even as it forges ahead with a preferred strategy of developing its own shows, these people said. A deal with the Pac-12 would be Apple’s first foray into live sports.

As the story notes, Apple is playing “catch-up” with other streaming platforms, especially when it comes to live broadcasts. Hulu has its own live cable package, as does YouTube, and Amazon broadcasts NFL Thursday Night Football games.

Pac-12 Network already exists, of course, but there’s plenty of college sports to go around if the price is right. Apple TV+ had nine original shows when it launched, but few past TMS have gotten much buzz. Live programming would give it an edge on Netflix, Disney+ and others. One thing of note with college sports, however, is that it’s extremely expensive to get broadcast rights to it. As the story noted, the full broadcast rights to Pac-12 sporting events is estimated to be worth more than $5 billion.

Mr. Cue has questioned the value of a deal with the Pac-12 because it would only give Apple rights to some games, people familiar with his thinking said. He also recognized that if Apple ever secured rights to all of the conference’s best programming, it would need to show some of those games on traditional broadcast TV to satisfy fans.

The conference continues to search for strategic partners for its media rights and has recently had talks with Apple and Amazon, among others, people familiar with the matter said.

Apple has clearly invested plenty of money in making the service work, though, so what’s a few billion more?

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