On Tuesday, Major League Soccer announced a massive new deal with Apple that will reportedly pay them $2.5 billion over the 10 year agreement to broadcast every match, without local blackout restrictions, on a new streaming service that Apple will run and have exclusive rights to — but MLS will pay to produce games for.
It’s a huge deal for MLS, which currently gets $90 million per year in its television deals with ESPN, Univision, and Fox — with the expectation that a linear TV deal with ESPN and Univision for select matches that would still end up on Apple’s streaming service is to come. While the $2.5 billion number is a massive jump for the league, it remains to be seen exactly what they bring in on net revenue after having to pay to produce the games, but it’s still a major upgrade both for league revenue and for fans who will have access to the entire league in one place.
Considering the fracturing of TV and streaming rights across sports to a variety of networks and services, the MLS deal is unique in bringing it all to one place and making it easy for fans to find games, even if they’ll have to pay to do it. Instead of trying to figure out what games are national broadcasts, local broadcasts, or streaming exclusives — like is the case with Major League Baseball now — MLS has gone all in on one network and Apple is banking on the ease of that, and the lack of local blackouts, driving subscriptions in a big way. Fans are often gun shy about paying for streaming packages of games because of blackouts, either from national TV games or from local TV restrictions, but MLS is working backwards from the normal TV agreement this time, selling full rights to Apple and then will offer TV companies the chance to broadcast games as well, rather than exclusively.
Apple TV+ will also get select games that are like national TV games, in that local broadcast networks won’t show them, which will further drive fans to the Apple product (either as Apple TV+ subscribers or subscribers to the new MLS network on Apple). But, MLS has worked out that season ticket holders for every team will get free subscriptions to the new service, ensuring that their most loyal supporters can watch games and are rewarded for their support.