Apple’s sudden interest in acquiring sports rights comes at an ideal time for Major League Soccer. With the American top-flight league getting passive interest from its current rights holders, the writing is on the wall that MLS has to change. The league is expanding its number of teams. Yet, MLS appears to be stuck in a quagmire of weak TV ratings. Its root issue is that there’s little reason to watch the regular season on television. And soccer fans know this.
Apple, however, may not care as much. Instead, the tech giant is in the game of acquiring new subscribers for its Apple TV+ streaming service. As long as subscribers stick with the service throughout the year, Apple isn’t going to worry about viewing numbers. With shows such as Ted Lasso and movies including Coda and new Tom Hanks films, Apple just wants subscribers to stick with the service. And if sports can be the way to keep subscribers stuck on Apple TV+, then that’s a win-win.
For soccer fans who haven’t signed up yet to Apple TV+, there may be some trepidation. However, there are many reasons why sports fans in general are enthused about what the Apple ecosystem offers. And this is coming from an Android mobile phone user.
Reasons to love an Apple TV+ and MLS deal
1) Sports. Apple TV+ has already signed a deal with Major League Baseball. Subsequently, reports are that Apple TV+ is close to a deal to acquire NFL’s Sunday Ticket. Combine this with the potential of MLS games from 2023 onwards, and it’ll be a home run for sports fans.
After all, after you watch all of the Ted Lasso episodes as well as the other shows and movies, there is little reason to continue with Apple TV+. If you add sports to that mix, with games happening every week throughout the year, it makes Apple TV+ much more stickier.
2) State of the art hardware. You don’t need an Apple phone or piece of Apple hardware to watch Apple TV+. You can watch programming across many different devices. But if you decide to buy an Apple TV device (which looks like a hockey puck and can stream all of your favorites channels and services), get ready for a treat. Last year, I wrote that every soccer fan needs to own an Apple TV. And I continue to stand by that statement.
In fact, every sports fan needs to own an Apple TV, and here’s why. First, the picture quality is far better than a Roku or Amazon Fire TV. Second, you can do more with the apps on an Apple TV. For instance, you can watch four games at once with Multicast.
An Apple TV also includes a picture-in-picture feature, and it works on different apps. For example, with an Apple TV, watch a MLS game from ESPN+ at the same time as a UEFA Champions League game on Paramount+. With other streaming devices such as Roku and Amazon Fire TV, that feature isn’t available.
I should add that for readers unfamiliar with Apple TV, it’s not a television. It’s a streaming device to connect to your TV. Then, you can add your favorite streaming services to it such as Netflix and your library of music and shows. If you want, you can add Apple TV+ to it too. Oftentimes when you buy an Apple phone or hardware device, you get a subscription to Apple TV+.
Apple TV features easily integrates with other services all inside the app. For instance, the Apple TV App on the device aggregates all of the popular streaming services and cable TV providers together. Also, the App recommends what shows to watch next from your favorite streaming services. Examples include Disney+, HBO Max, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, and more.
Improved perception of MLS outside of soccer
3) The bleeding edge. When MLS agreed a deal with ESPN+, it was one of the first leagues available on the streaming service that turned into a huge success. Together with Apple TV+, MLS would be the first soccer league on the streaming service. By the end of 2026, Apple TV+ expects to reach 36 million subscribers.
Apple TV+ has aggressive growth plans, and the league would be centerstage for that. Being seen as a trailblazer is where you want to be as a sports league.
4) Appealing to a more affluent audience. Apple TV+ is not for everyone. Yes, it’s $4.99 per month, so it’s certainly cost effective. However, there’s no doubt that Apple, in general, appeals to a demographic that has more disposable income than an average consumer.
With Apple TV+, there’s a prestige with being featured on the streaming service. This isn’t B/R Live nor FloSports. Apple TV+ is a streaming service that’s synonymous with award-winning shows and movies. Being on the same streaming service as Ted Lasso, Coda (Best Picture winner), Severance and The Morning Show carries a lot of weight. This is a streaming service that focuses on quality content, even if Apple TV+ has a long way to go before it rivals Disney+ or Netflix.
Overall, just as Apple TV+ has room to grow, so too does Major League Soccer. Together, they are brands who have a lot in common. Both work in a closed ecosystem. MLS could certainly benefit from an open system, as could Apple. However, for business reasons, both entities have decided to work in their own controlled environments. By doing so, they’ve been able to control every single aspect of their operations. Sterile, as it is, it does feel like a match made in soccer heaven.
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