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MLS and Apple TV FAQ about new global soccer deal

MLS and Apple TV FAQ

Major League Soccer today announced a 10-year streaming deal with Apple TV, beginning in 2023. As part of the deal, every single game will be available via a brand-new MLS streaming subscription service through the Apple TV app worldwide. However, MLS is still working on finalizing the pricing and the linear television parts of the deal. Hence the reason why we created this MLS and Apple TV FAQ to help answer your questions.

What we do know is that MLS still has a lot to work out. Given the confusion about this announcement, here’s our FAQ to help answer your questions.

MLS and Apple TV FAQ

Q: How much will the MLS streaming service cost from Apple?

A: Pricing details for the MLS streaming service are coming soon.

However, Apple TV+ subscribers will be able to watch a selection of MLS and League Cup games at no additional cost to Apple TV+ subscribers. As of press time, Apple TV+ is $4.99 per month after a free 7-day trial.

A limited number of games will be available for free, not behind the Apple TV+ paywall. And then a limited number will be available via linear television (to be announced in the coming weeks).

Starting in 2023, the MLS streaming service through the Apple TV app is available for all full-season ticket holders. That may mean that prices for season tickets could increase next season.

Q: What does this mean for television broadcasts in the United States?

A: Given that Apple TV has acquired the streaming rights to all languages worldwide, this now puts ESPN in a strong position to acquire US rights to a smaller package of games for linear television. However, negotiations are dragging on. According to World Soccer Talk sources, ESPN declined to bid on the streaming package for MLS rights, and sources tell us that the broadcaster is only interested in a four-year deal for linear rights. That’s shorter than the longer-term deal that MLS is pushing for.

Meanwhile, we expect Univision to acquire the Spanish-language linear television rights in the United States.

Changes in 2023

Q: Where will I be able to watch MLS games in 2023 through 2033?

A: 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.

Q: Does that mean that Android users can’t watch games?

A: No. Android users can watch games via the browser through tv.apple.com.

Q: How much is the deal valued at?

A: Reports are that Apple is paying $250 million per year for the global rights for the next ten years.

Q: What changes will there be, if any, to the MLS schedule?

A: Beginning in 2023, all games play on Wednesday and Saturday nights unless there is a game on linear television or a conflict with the stadium not being available.

Q: What happens to the local rights to MLS games?

A: “Local TV will be out of the TV deal,” according to MLS President Gary Stevenson. As a result, it’s very likely that we may see layoffs in local production and talent among MLS clubs nationwide, according to a World Soccer Talk insider.

Q: What will the picture quality be like on Apple TV?

A: All games stream in 1080P.

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48 Comments

48 Comments

  1. Rob

    June 22, 2022 at 7:53 pm

    The thing about streaming games is, they can’t be recorded so they can be watched later when it’s more convenient, Especially if I’m working during the game. If anyone knows an easy way to record them please let me know. Thank You.

  2. DiRT

    June 21, 2022 at 6:38 pm

    “Q: Does that mean that Android users can’t watch games?
    A: No. Android users can watch games via the browser through tv.apple.com.”

    This is hardly ideal and anyone who has ever streamed video through a mobile web browser on your phone knows that Apple is doing it this way just to stick a big middle finger to Android users.

  3. Peter Wolt

    June 15, 2022 at 3:41 pm

    The only MLS I watch–and this is only very occasionally–is my home market team (Chi Fire) and they are aired free, Over the Air.

    If the Fire are not on WGN any more I will follow them less than even I currently do (which is not that closely).

    I can’t imagine this deal will help the Fire get more fans and coverage in local media. But I don’t really follow the team or the league so I could be totally wrong. Whenever I happen to turn on one of their games, however, Soldier Field looks deserted. Not sure if this is going to help.

    • SteveK

      June 15, 2022 at 4:14 pm

      How old are you Peter? I ask because this deal with Apple is a play for millennials, for the next generation of sports fans who never had cable and who are already comfortable with streaming games, music, movies, sports etc. The younger generations are supposedly the paying fan base of the MLS and that’s who Apple is increasingly marketing services to. It will be interesting to see who benefits from this new deal over time.

      • Peter Wolt

        June 15, 2022 at 5:31 pm

        I’m in my 40s. My 9 & 11 year old kids are big soccer players and fans. They and all of their friends are into the Premier League & the Champions League.

        You walk around the school and the kids are wearing shirts from the usual European suspects with the odd Americá or Chivas shirt thrown in.

        Maybe it is just because the Fire have been so bad for so long, but the MLS doesn’t really move the radar in Chicago. Not sure this is going to change it. I don’t think taking them off free to air tv is going to help.

  4. Mercator

    June 15, 2022 at 2:11 pm

    Continuing to spam comments because this is quite exciting, the MLS is now the most accessible major sports league in the country. I never would have expected this day to come when they folded my Mutiny. At a local level only the NFL has it beat, and at a national level no league will be easier or cheaper to follow in full than the MLS. This is going to be huge I think – I’m not even a huge MLS fan but I will pay to support the league and a 6 hours whip around show every Saturday night is guaranteed watching if I’m available.

    MLS said they will produce Montreal games in French and have plans for Portuguese broadcasts by 2025. If they can get every game in English and Spanish too, and its distributed across the Americas by Apple, then MLS just leapfrogged Liga MX and even the South American leagues. Apparently production cost are estimated at $60 million a year, but whatever MLS spends on production isn’t net broadcasting revenue they have to share with the players etc. So MLS really has every incentive to spend on production and put out something fantastic.

    This is by far the best move for the MLS – a soccer league with blackouts isn’t competitive in a world where all the European leagues can be streamed for cheap with no blackouts.

    • SteveK

      June 15, 2022 at 2:20 pm

      Not spam Mercator, you are bubbling over with enthusiasm and respect for this deal and have your eye on the long ball, I suspect many here agree with your analysis on this, even if we don’t agree on much else.

    • dave

      June 15, 2022 at 2:41 pm

      @Mercator, every now and then a topic comes along where “do not spam the discussion” norms can be suspended. Whatever anyone’s reactions to it, this deal is arguably the biggest sports rights news in years. With the main focus of WST being soccer and sports rights, I would be hard-pressed to consider any constructive comments on this topic as being too much
      .
      I am less confident than you that this will play out as MLS hopes. Seeing alternate views on a breaking topic helps us all sharpen our thinking and form our initial hypotheses. I agree with @SteveK, please keep commenting on this

      • Bryan

        June 29, 2022 at 7:56 pm

        Contrary to some posts, I do live in a market where local TV (and local behemoth Amazon) broadcasts all of my teams games. ((Seattle if you didn’t figure that out)

        I will miss local “bias” and insight of our announcers and analysts…… most are ex sounders players and a few are long time Seattle soccer community pillars. (Peter Fewing, Seattle Pacific University coach to name one)

        BUT. This is good for the league and football in the USA.

        I’m old enough to have gone to numerous NASL games (google Pele millennials :). I will subscribe the day it becomes available. Hopefully they will stream ALL MLS games including Open Cup and Champions league. (The CONCACAF version)

        Now let’s see the $$ flow to the salaries. Raise the minimums and the total cap.

    • Juris

      June 15, 2022 at 9:10 pm

      Montreal fans are 90% negative about the deal. They want people chez nous to continue doing the broadcasts. Given Apple tv is English-centric, it doesn’t have much visibility in Quebec.

      ligaMX matches are in Spanish. So, MLS can only leap frog with Portuguese.

  5. cmasia

    June 15, 2022 at 1:37 pm

    What does this mean for Jon Champion?

    ESPN is basically out of business for the matches he was hired for.

    MLS, USMNT, and the Euros are all gone.

    What’s left for him next year? The FA Cup?

    • JP

      June 15, 2022 at 2:01 pm

      He can do La Liga or Bundesliga. Improvement over Moreno, Donaldson, Keller

  6. Lovac1

    June 15, 2022 at 11:44 am

    I’m curious to see what this means from the scheduling perspective, if there will be pre set start times for games like in europe or if we will have Saturdays with 10 different kick off times and if 7pm will still be 7:07. Hope MLS can improve in these areas.

    • locofooty

      June 15, 2022 at 1:31 pm

      On the call, MLS said all matches will be Saturday and Wednesday nights with a whip a round show to show all the action and goals. MLS needs to organize their schedule, but doing all matches in one night almost at the same start time is not the best solution IMO.

      • Mercator

        June 15, 2022 at 1:57 pm

        The Athletic is saying the whip around show can be up to 6 hours, so that would be about 3 different match windows a day. I’m assuming no commercials as well? Or if they do have commercials, is that revenue going to Apple or the MLS?

        • JP

          June 15, 2022 at 2:05 pm

          This part is most intriguing to me. Posted weeks ago on another article that they needed to set consistent match windows like the NFL and all the Euro leagues do.

          4PM, 7PM, and 10PM windows on a Saturday or something similar is the way to go…1PM, 4PM, 7PM for those on the west coast. Wednesday’s would have to lose the 4PM window and maybe make the other two an hour earlier, so 6PM and 9PM.

          • JP

            June 15, 2022 at 2:08 pm

            If they want to go for continuous matches then 5PM, 7PM, 9PM or 6PM, 8PM, 10PM would be ideal,

        • SteveK

          June 15, 2022 at 2:16 pm

          Mercator, as far as commercials in MLS programming is concerned, I suspect it will work within the aTV app just like any other channel or app you have linked to the aTV…if there are commercials in Peacock or Amazon Prime or BritBox you still see them when accessing through the aTV app. Doubt any of that revenue would go to Apple just like I doubt Apple would get any slice of any linear TV simulcast deals MLS cuts.

          • Mercator

            June 15, 2022 at 5:11 pm

            Excellent so that should mean either no commercials, or if there are commercials its additional broadcast revenue for the league. $250 million is the base but with linear TV deals (domestic and globally) and some ads/sponsors they could push that even higher without additional subscribers. Will be interesting to see what the new salary caps end up looking like, should at least double per team broadcasting revenues.

            • Juris

              June 15, 2022 at 9:12 pm

              It’s net 160=300-60-80 (loss of local tv revenues as estimated by Forbes). So, not much higher than the current deal.

              • Mercator

                June 15, 2022 at 11:50 pm

                Forbes is an absolute joke. From that article “Assume each of the 28 MLS teams currently gets an average of $3 million for local rights” Yea that’s a ridiculous assumption. They struggle to GIVE AWAY the local tv rights in my market, and I live in a large market. Maybe the Galaxy, Sounders and a handful of others actually get paid for their local rights, but the average is closer to zero than it is to $3 million. In fact, the Athletic reports that most MLS teams PAY to broadcast their games locally since they get no money for it and foot the bill for production costs. It’s $190 net after production expenses and that’s without domestic or international linear deals, or sponsors or ads. call it $210 million net and that’s 7 million a team…they were making less than $3 million a team before and most fans couldn’t watch the games anyway.

  7. jason

    June 15, 2022 at 10:45 am

    I have espn plus by default since my kids like disney plus. And I do too with Star Wars and Marvel. Wife likes Hulu.

    With a pay for only one streaming service at a time policy that I implement on myself. I have go with whatever content they got. Sorry Apple/MLS. Its a no go for now. Besides if I ever got to cancel diseny/espn. I would move to paramount plus.

  8. Rich

    June 15, 2022 at 10:07 am

    Will Ray Hudson go from the face of an entire network to unemployed in less than two years?

  9. BronzeCheetah

    June 15, 2022 at 8:35 am

    Just to put this in perspective on what a steal this is for Apple. The Indian Premier League(cricket) just sold their media rights yesterday to Disney and Viacom/Reliance for over $6.0 billion for 5 years!

    • Turfit

      June 15, 2022 at 11:25 am

      The IPL to India is the NFL to USA, so this is not a good comparison.

  10. Leo

    June 14, 2022 at 6:29 pm

    Congrats MLS. Another fatal blow to Cable. Streaming wins again. Now if MLS is smart should put prices around $5 to get people in, then proceed to increase slowly.

    • Freeisme

      June 15, 2022 at 6:30 am

      People are cutting the cord. That doesn’t mean they are going to subscribe to apple tv+ then on top the mls package itself. I already pay for espn+ and paramount. I don’t imagine I’m going to pay for apple package. I’ll wait to see where they start. The honeymoon period is nice. Lets see what year 5-10 have in store.

      • Mercator

        June 15, 2022 at 8:57 am

        The real problem now is NBC and FOX.

        ESPN+ – $5 to stream all of La Liga, all of Bundesliga, and select games from other leagues and cups.
        Paramount+ – $5 to stream all of UCL and Europa, all of Seria A
        Apple – $10-15 to stream all of MLS (assuming its a $5-10 add on to ATV+)

        You are basically left with NBC still trying to charge you cable fees to watch the EPL and FOX monopolizing international soccer and not even offering a streaming option. The problem is paying $70 for cable, all the soccer streaming services, even if you get every single one, are less than half the cost of cable with literally thousands more matches.

        • Rich

          June 15, 2022 at 10:12 am

          There is absolutely no way I’ll be getting this apple package. I’d have much preferred Apple do this with EPL instead.

          Fox has a streaming interface (FioxNow) but it isn’t stand alone like Fox MatchPass used to be. That said, this FuBo exclusive deal with some UEFA games is horrible.

          • KW

            June 15, 2022 at 10:46 am

            Rereading the announcement I would not assume that you have to subscribe to apple TV plus and the MLS package. It maybe the case, but right now you can rent or buy content that is total separate from Apple tv+, but on the apple tv service.

            • SteveK

              June 15, 2022 at 1:21 pm

              The Athletic has reported that you won’t have to subscribe to aTV+ in order to sign up for the full MLS service. So in effect, MLS will exist inside the aTV app as a channel under “Watch Now” much like aTV+ itself does and any other apps or TV channels you can access.

              • dave

                June 15, 2022 at 2:16 pm

                @SteveK, that is big news about not needing Apple TV+ to subscribe to MLS. A good move that may open the door for stand-alone MLS apps (Android, Roku, Fire, etc.) that just authenticate with Apple on what access the customer is paying for. Almost like a customer rents MLS with Apple as the payment and production intermediary
                .
                To the point you raised elsewhere, Apple TV+ customers can be given a different rate and/or level of access. Same for MLS season ticket holders. Seems this allows for a wider customer base with differentiation of offerings

                • SteveK

                  June 15, 2022 at 2:27 pm

                  Precisely my sense, dave, yesterday it wasn’t clear if that $5/mo. for aTV+ was required and then MLS was an add-on…it’s smart NOT to require it, lots of free access to MLS remains as a perk to existing aTV+ subscribers and I bet there will be deals on the MLS package offered to existing subscribers just like there are deals on Showtime or Acorn or other channels within aTV.

        • SteveK

          June 15, 2022 at 1:26 pm

          This is why FOX not also tying up Spanish language rights is so significant, there just may be more attractive streaming options that are 100% legal that don’t require the use of a VPN.

  11. Rick

    June 14, 2022 at 5:26 pm

    The Athletic says that 1/2 to 2/3 of local broadcast teams will not be used. There will be no “home and away” broadcasts.

  12. Rick

    June 14, 2022 at 5:24 pm

    Also, this probably fed into Arlo’s decision to choose LIV.

  13. Mercator

    June 14, 2022 at 4:56 pm

    Do you think they will have a central studio and regular hosts (e.g. a Rebecca Lowe of the MLS) or just do it the same way local broadcasts have done, with the local commentators also doing the pre-half-post game studio? Wouldn’t it be easy for MLS to just hire everyone doing the local broadcasts now? Home commentators do the global commentary feed – half as many games for each commentator but that’s a cost savings ultimately as there isn’t a clear need for 2 sets of announcers (home and away) on every game.

    Does this come with League Cup rights in Spanish in Mexico? Trying to get my head around the international rights because I think this is huge, football is football there is a market internationally. For Apple/MLS, would it make sense to, for example, offer the games free in Sweden when Zlatan moves to LA Galaxy? Not a great example, but there are a number of players in MLS, probably one of the best in their small nation – seems like both MLS and Apple could expand into markets where they have no business otherwise being.

    • dave

      June 14, 2022 at 5:10 pm

      @Mercator, Apple’s current release footnotes “This excludes Leagues Cup and Campeones Cup for viewers in Mexico”
      .
      It would be quite cheeky for MLS to sell rights they do not own. Hopefully Apple were fully aware of this (they have great lawyers, I am sure they were) before inking the deal

    • Freeisme

      June 15, 2022 at 6:33 am

      NOpe, they are goign more for a NFL type of broadcast. Neturals on all game broadcast. If you want team commentary. Listen to the local radio braodcast. Which seems old school thinking in a digital age. Id imagine flights and hotels are cheaper. Then a team broadcast crew.

  14. dave

    June 14, 2022 at 4:19 pm

    In response to “Q: What does this mean for television broadcasts in the United States?”, I read that games on ESPN or Univision would be non-exclusive (all games available on Apple TV+ with just a simulcast agreement to ESPN or Univision). Is that your understanding also?
    .
    I am especially curious about Spanish-language rights to Leagues Cup. I will probably pay Apple for Leagues Cup in Spanish if they offer subscriptions of much less than a year. If the good games are on Univision and I can skip sign-up and cancel hassles, all the better

    • Christopher Harris

      June 14, 2022 at 4:22 pm

      All of the games will be on the MLS streaming service available via Apple TV. But for those small number of games that will be on linear TV, I’m not sure whether it would be a simulcast. For example, I would imagine that ESPN would want to use their talent to broadcast the games.

      • dave

        June 14, 2022 at 5:20 pm

        I have seen a lot of the word “simulcast” but it could easily be an overly casual usage by people who mean “non-exclusive”
        .
        If a deal with Univision is inked, TUDN will have a good Saturday dilemma. Liga MX dominates their evening schedule, but does an attractive MLS game preempt a mediocre Liga MX game? More ViX+ for Liga MX allows more MLS on Univision? This announcement is one of the most interesting sports rights developments in a long time

        • Freeisme

          June 15, 2022 at 6:44 am

          What plays into MLS favor is that Univision is OTA in may states. Unfortunaly many english speaking only fans won’t watch it. And its in competition with liga mx games. MLS has regular have low numbers for national broadcast games. We aren’t even talking football season. From August to Dec. What about champions league and USOC games?? Are we going to have a several games on Wednesdays with those competitions. What about the playoffs??? Still alot of questions. Just have to wait to hear more.

  15. Rich

    June 14, 2022 at 3:56 pm

    ESPN+ *might* soon dip below the level required for me to keep it. They still have Bundesliga, La Liga and the English cups but with no UEFA and no MLS, they are closer to the line.

    I lived without the League Cup and La Liga on Bein and I can do the same in the future.

    • Lou

      June 14, 2022 at 9:32 pm

      Well, you’ll be one of many as ESPN+ continues to experience subscriber cancellations. Disney is in a bit of a pickle right now with ESPN in general. ESPN has been loosing cable subscriptions for years and there is no show of it slowing down. besides increased subscriber cancellations, ESPN+ has been a money loser for Disney so far and projected to continue in the future. Not to mention the poor viewership numbers for both La Liga and Bundesliga matches. I subscribe only to watch ESPN FC, but if inflation and high gas prices continue I may just walk away.

      • Michael

        June 14, 2022 at 11:23 pm

        @Lou Where are you getting your information from? ESPN+ has seen a boost from NHL, and we are only 8 weeks from Football season where they have Big 12, SEC, and several other College Football leagues Tier 3 games on it. Maybe you meant that ESPN+ was loosing Soccer fans. That may or may not be true. I don’t know about that…but the last I heard in the beginning of June that they are up to over 9 million subscribers and they are growing.

    • Freeisme

      June 15, 2022 at 7:07 am

      I didn’t get espn+ for MLS. It was great when it was added. Nice benefit. I’m not going to cancel because MLS is gone. Also when fox had the champions league. During the group stage and 1st round. They would off load games onto espn+ and many Spanish language broadcast of those games there as well. That’s a possibility with the Euros as well.

      • Rich

        June 15, 2022 at 10:05 am

        I definitely didn’t get it for MLS either. However, the accumulation of soccer inventory keeps me subscribing. If they lost the English cups I would probably drop the service as I’m not that invested in La Liga and Buli by themselves.

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