Major League Soccer and Apple announced a historic new TV deal on Tuesday. Starting in 2023, Apple will broadcast all live MLS matches, as well as select Leagues Cup, MLS NEXT Pro and MLS NEXT matches. The deal will do away with local blackout restrictions.
From the press release:
NEW YORK, NY & CUPERTINO, CALIFORNIA (Tuesday,June 14,2022) – Apple and Major League Soccer today announced that the Apple TV app will be the exclusive destination to watch every single live MLS match beginning in 2023. This partnership is a historic first for a major professional sports league and will allow fans around the world to watch all MLS, Leagues Cup,1 and select MLS NEXT Pro and MLS NEXT matches in one place — without any local broadcast blackouts or the need for a traditional pay TV bundle.
From early 2023 through 2032, fans can get every live MLS match by subscribing to a new MLS streaming service, available exclusively through the Apple TV app. In addition to all of the match content, the service will provide fans a new weekly live match whip-around show so they never miss an exciting goal or save, and also game replays, highlights, analysis, and other original programming. This live and on-demand MLS content will provide in-depth, behind-the-scenes views of the players and clubs that fans love. A broad selection of MLS and Leagues Cup matches, including some of the biggest matchups, will also be available at no additional cost to Apple TV+ subscribers, with a limited number of matches available for free. As an added benefit to fans, access to the new MLS streaming service will be included as part of MLS full-season ticket packages.
The MLS live and on-demand content on the Apple TV app will be available to anyone with internet access across all devices where the app can be found, including iPhone, iPad, Mac, Apple TV 4K, and Apple TV HD; Samsung, LG, Panasonic, Sony, TCL, VIZIO, and other smart TVs; Amazon Fire TV and Roku devices; PlayStation and Xbox gaming consoles; Chromecast with Google TV; and Comcast Xfinity. Fans can also watch on tv.apple.com.
“Apple is the perfect partner to further accelerate the growth of MLS and deepen the connection between our clubs and their fans,” said MLS Commissioner Don Garber. “Given Apple’s ability to create a best-in-class user experience and to reach fans everywhere, it’ll be incredibly easy to enjoy MLS matches anywhere, whether you’re a super fan or casual viewer.”
“For the first time in the history of sports, fans will be able to access everything from a major professional sports league in one place,” said Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Services. “It’s a dream come true for MLS fans, soccer fans, and anyone who loves sports. No fragmentation, no frustration — just the flexibility to sign up for one convenient service that gives you everything MLS, anywhere and anytime you want to watch. We can’t wait to make it easy for even more people to fall in love with MLS and root for their favorite club.”
At launch, all MLS and Leagues Cup matches will include announcers calling the action in English and Spanish, and all matches involving Canadian teams will be available in French. Apple and MLS will also provide enhanced league and club coverage for fans to easily follow the league or their favorite clubs in Apple News, with the ability to watch highlights right in the News app.
Complete details for the new service, including when fans can sign up, subscription pricing, specific details about the new MLS programming, an improved match schedule, broadcast teams, production enhancements, and pre- and postgame coverage — as well as all the ways fans will be able to enjoy MLS content across the Apple ecosystem — will be announced in the coming months.
Major League Soccer is the fastest-growing soccer league in the world, more than doubling in size to 29 clubs over the last 15 years. The momentum will continue as soccer will grow throughout North America on the road to the 2026 FIFA World Cup hosted by the US, Canada, and Mexico. With players representing 82 countries, MLS has the most global player pool in all sports, and its fan base is one of the youngest, most diverse audiences in North American sports.
“We are convinced this is where the fans are going and the business is going,” said Commissioner Don Garber in the official press conference. “We had the opportunity to go there before anyone else does.”
“All matches will be streamed on the MLS streaming service. In addition to that, a select number will be distributed on linear TV, as well as in front of the paywally on Apple TV+,” said MLS Deputy Commissioner and President Gary Stevenson. “Local TV will be out of the deal.”
Additionally, MLS Executive Vice President Dan Courtemanche included that all MLS season ticket holders will receive a subscription to the new MLS streaming service with their ticket package.
The deal is the first of its kind for a top-flight professional league in the United States, and brings a significant increase in revenue for MLS. The deal with Apple will reportedly pay at least $250 million per year, up from the previous $90 million a year.
Doing away with blackouts is a huge move for the league. Under the new deal, subscribers will be able to watch matches from anywhere around the globe without location-based restrictions. There will no longer be local broadcasts of the matches, with MLS and Apple to centrally produce the broadcast.
“Through this new agreement, we plan on our midweek games will be on Wednesday nights and our weekend games will be on Saturday nights,” said Stevenson. “We’ll have a whiparound show available on Apple, on our streaming service. It could be up to six hours long. Most of the games will begin at seven or eight o’clock local time, depending on when the club wants to start.”
It’s a bold new move for MLS to take a gamble on a new way to deliver matches to viewers. It’s certainly somewhat of a risk, but with a young demographic and a convenient all-inclusive model, it has potential to pay off.