The sky changed British football. Will Apple’s $ 2.5 billion deal do the same for MLS? | MLS

OI suspect someone in Major League Soccer was playing the famous 1984 Apple Macintosh commercial in his head. The league has signed a $ 2.5 billion deal to stream games on Apple TV for the next 10 years. Indeed, the image of a hammer crashing into a huge TV screen is pretty good enough to explain what the league did with that new deal.

MLS hasn’t turned its back on traditional television completely-reportedly, the league is still in talks with linear broadcasters to display some games-but partner Don Gerber has been hoping for it. We cannot deny the importance of the decision to work with Apple. “When we started this process, there was a logo on the whiteboard, which was the Apple logo,” said the League Commissioner.

Fans will notice the difference. All matches are played on Saturday and Wednesday. Local broadcasts are a thing of the past. The same is true for power outages. All matches will be available in all states (and all countries) of Apple TV. The match will be broadcast in 1080p (many of the current broadcasts are in 720p and 1080i) and come with local radio audio options. In addition, MLS season ticket owners have free access to the service.

This new deal has taken place over the years. As long as 2019, the league instructed clubs not to sign local deals after 2022. The intent behind that instruction is now clear. Gerber initially set March 2022 as the announcement date for the new contract. It was suspected that MLS hadn’t received the offer it wanted, as it came and went without any news that day.

Trading $ 250 million a year is more profitable than many expected (previous deals with ESPN, Fox and Univision were worth $ 90 million a year). That said, MLS has approved broadcast rights for the next decade in far fewer numbers than many other leagues receive (the Premier League has 450 million annual rights from NBC for US broadcast rights alone. You will receive dollars). Does MLS consider this deal to be a good value in 2032?

Also, if you put all your matches on a streaming service (and behind the paywall, fans will have to pay individually to access MLS’s new streaming verticals via Apple TV), the overall viewing of the league. It is unknown how it affects rate and exposure. But television is such a puzzle for MLS, and it’s not surprising, and perhaps wise, for the league to try to stitch together completely different pictures for itself.

Of course, this isn’t the first time MLS has partnered with a streaming service. League off-market matches will be available on ESPN + from 2018. Prior to that, MLS operated its own centralized streaming service called MLS Live. Garber and others at MLS soon realized that broadcasting habits were changing among American sports fans.

Apple has a deal with MLB to display Friday Night Baseball, and the new MLS deal is the largest live sports deal the company has ever made. Live MLS games form an important part of Apple TV’s content strategy. Indeed, Apple may be hoping to benefit from the expected “World Cup Bump” in 2026, when Canada, Mexico and the United States will co-sponsor the tournament. It is also expected that Lionel Messi will arrive at MLS at some point in the future. Whatever the work behind the equation, Apple clearly believes that MLS adds value to its streaming service. It tells us something about the league’s position in North American sports.

Saturday night’s whiplash show will give MLS its own red zone. For leagues with a large number of teams (2023-29), this is an effective way to maintain an entire league that spans two countries. The broadcast comes with more shoulder programming. This should help establish MLS’s constant goal as a major league baseball player. Broadcasts will not be delayed due to overruns in college basketball games (as it happened in 2021).

Apple and MLS may also work together on supplemental content. If MLS hasn’t yet marketed a DriveToSurvive-type documentary to a new streaming partner, it should. F1’s fate in the United States has been changed by the Netflix show, which allows viewers to step behind the curtain. Apple recently used the trends initiated by The Last Dance to create a documentary about The Last Dance. Can you create something similar about David Beckham’s time at the LA Galaxy and Freddy Adu’s breakthrough as a 14-year-old professional at DC United?

While some have expressed concern that MLS could lose casual fans by turning its back on traditional TV, the league’s support base is younger than most other TVs. How many fans are really attracted to MLS by flicking a channel? Today’s sports fans are more interested in storytelling, and Apple TV should provide MLS with a better platform for telling stories of teams and players.

Most broadcast transactions cannot move the needle and there is no guarantee that this will make a big difference to MLS. However, not all broadcast contracts have the potential benefits of the new agreement between MLS and Apple. Just as the Bold decision to partner with Sky Sports in the early 1990s was in the history of British football, it could be a milestone in the history of MLS. Another impressive Apple commercial used the slogan “Think Different.” MLS is certainly doing it here.

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