Apple embraces potential of sports streaming with MLS deal

Cupertino, Calif. (AP) — After its first foray into sports streaming last year, Apple is now immersed.

The tech giant kicked off its 10-year partnership with Major League Soccer with the launch of the Apple TV+ Season Pass on Wednesday.

“This is very important to us. It’s one of the big things we’re working on this year and for the next 10 years. We’re all part of the family now,” Apple CEO Tim said. Cook said at a presentation for MLS players, owners and media at Apple Park last month.

Apple’s launch comes after a transformative year for sports and streaming services. The NFL embraced streaming more last year, with Prime Video broadcasting “Thursday Night Football” and Major League Baseball partnering with Apple TV and Peacock to stream the game. The NFL also reached an agreement with Google’s YouTube TV to offer a “Sunday Ticket” package beginning next season.

Technology companies and broadcasters alike recognize the value of live sports programming. According to a recent report from Parks Associates, revenue from sports streaming subscription packages is expected to grow 73% to $22.6 billion in 2027 after generating $13.1 billion last year.

In an era of cord-cutting, technology companies, advertisers and sports leagues are also beginning to notice that young audiences continue to shift to streaming and watch longer.

22% of Prime Video’s “Thursday Night Football” viewers belong to the coveted 18-34 demographic and watch NFL games on linear networks, according to Amazon tracking data compared to 14% of viewers.

“Thursday Night” games averaged 85 minutes watched, 9 minutes longer than non-Prime games.

It makes sense for Apple to partner with MLS. Various studies have found that football fans are more likely to watch sports on streaming his devices and TV recordings.

Daniel Kirschner, co-founder and CEO of Greenfly, a digital media distribution platform that works with over 30 leagues, said:

MLS will receive at least $250 million per season from Apple. The league averaged $90 million per season under its previous eight-year deal with Fox, ESPN and Univision.

Apple has forayed into sports streaming before, but this is the first major involvement in the league. MLB aired two of his games on Apple TV+ on Friday nights last year. This includes the game in which St. Louis’ Albert Pujols became just the fourth player in baseball history to hit his 700th home run..

The deal could indicate where sports streaming and league media rights are headed.

Apple and MLS are partnering for a direct-to-consumer product that allows fans to watch every game without regional power outages or restrictions, and that can reach beyond North America. Fans in London, Paris, and wherever his Apple TV app is available, can also watch the game.

Eddy Cue, senior vice president of services at Apple, said: “With this partnership, we have the opportunity to improve the fan experience and help grow the sport and league in the United States and beyond.”

MLS has taken over the production of all matches, similar to how European soccer leagues do business. But other leagues, such as the Premier League and Germany’s Bundesliga, sell their rights to national broadcasters. In this case, only one retailer — Apple — has worldwide rights.

Games from Fox in the US, TSN and RDS in Canada, and even TelevisaUnivision are available on the Apple TV+ app.

“The long-term value of their rights is best with their streaming or technology partners, as opposed to traditional leagues, which require huge payouts in the billions of dollars from traditional networks. I think they were in the right league to recognize, said Jon Cohen, senior vice president at Frequency, which provides software for ad-supported streaming channels. I think it’s the right time to do it.”

Apple TV+ has enjoyed success as the first streaming service to win Best Picture Oscars for last year’s CODA, and back-to-back Emmy wins for Best Comedy for Ted Lasso, but entertainment companies and studios have changed. I’m not bored. We continue to be a diverse company.

“Sports drives a lot of engagement on the media side. I think it shows they have a very specific strategy when it comes to growing their subscription and video services,” Cohen said. says.

MLS and Apple’s progress will be closely watched by other leagues. The NFL, NHL, and baseball have all worked out rights deals over the past two years, but the NBA is expected to have some streaming elements as it begins negotiations on media rights this year.

Cue and Cook admit that the first year is more of a struggle, especially as MLS adjusts to its own production company. However, all are eyeing the project’s potential and future prospects.

“People will say we’re the smartest people in the room or we were a few years too early,” said MLS Commissioner Don Gerber. .”


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