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MLS-Apple deal: Answering your questions: WST Podcast

In the NEW episode, number 1424, Christopher Harris is joined by co-host Kartik Krishnaiyer. They discuss:

In this episode, we’re focusing on answering all of your questions about the new MLS-Apple media rights deal. We also discuss Premier League Supporters Clubs in the United States, USL TV ratings, World Cup 2026 host cities and more. And we answer the questions from you, the listeners.

Listen to the show via the player above or via this link.

Launched in 2006, the World Soccer Talk Podcast is the longest running podcast on the planet. Every week, we share the latest news about watching soccer on television and streaming, in addition to discussing what we like and dislike, and featuring your questions and feedback in our Listener Mailbag segment.

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17 Comments

17 Comments

  1. Buckles

    June 27, 2022 at 10:58 am

    I wonder if there is any clause in the contract where either side can walk away after a few years. The linear partner piece is going to be very important. As you pointed out on the podcast, a calendar change would be very beneficial. Let’s hope that happens.

  2. Edwin

    June 26, 2022 at 6:47 pm

    I see comments as usual from the usual posters like JP/RA about how they aren’t interested in watching MLS right now. Its the same cadence everytime just remember even if MLS is just the 3rd most followed league in the US behind Liga MX and EPL it still has a sizeable portion of fans beyond just diehards. You don’t get 3.34 million Twitter followers and 1.5-2m for MLS Cup with just hardcore fans.

    Point is there are casual fans and a reminder that just because YOU don’t care to watch something which a few of you all repeat enough doesn’t mean other folks won’t. The play for MLS here IMO is globally they have a big growth opportunity in a football mad world to grab subscriptions for Apple. I imagine the prices just like cell phones sold globally will be scaled to market. Emerging markets will be priced lower where folks don’t have the income vs Mature markets like US/Western Europe/Japan/Korea. Also expect Apple to do deals for signups around phone sales.

    • Roberto

      June 27, 2022 at 8:26 am

      @Edwin, just saw your comment this morning, you got my day off to a good start!

    • Ra

      June 27, 2022 at 12:05 pm

      I don’t have anything against MLS. I don’t enjoy it either, but that is a personal preference. My point is that you are too optimistic – yes, there is huge demand for soccer in the world, but the market is also very saturated. Do you travel outside of the US often? I bet you don’t based on your optimistic assessment.
      If anything, a stand-alone subscription will make things even harder for MLS. Where exactly in the world do you see a substantial growth opportunity? Let’s break it down:
      1. Time zone will make it unrealistic for people to watch it in EU, even if it was on linear TV. A suggested 7 pm kick-off will be 12 am in England, 1 am in Germany. I also don’t see much appetite in EU for non EU leagues.
      2. I don’t see any potential for South America. If you see today, it is quite uncommon for people in South America to follow other South American leagues. Brazil doesn’t watch Argentinean teams, and vice-versa. Only exception are the Continental tournaments. MLS needs to beat EPL, Serie A, Bundesliga, to gain relevance. I don’t see that happening.
      3. People are creatures of habit. You might get the random viewer on Star+ that was looking for an EPL game, but watched a bit of MLS because it was the only live event. I cannot imagine people going out of their way, opening AppleTV, and looking for MLS.
      4. Apple devices are quite common in the US. Worldwide, Android devices account for 80% of the market. Globally, AppleTV devices are very uncommon. I have a Galaxy Note10+, and although I know how to access AppleTV from the browser, I would never bother myself to do that. I got 3mo of AppleTV free, and never accessed it from my phone.
      5. Time zone also doesn’t work for Africa. The only continent, where it could potentially sowehow work would be APAC. 7pm EST would be 8am in Tokyo. Maybe someone from Australia can comment if they see potential there for MLS.

      Another quick fact, the Turkish league was just renewed for $370M/year for 3 years.

      • Roberto

        June 27, 2022 at 2:18 pm

        Jeez, I find myself agreeing (partly) with Ra! The MLS world-wide rights is mainly for hype value. This is the only country where people watch games from other countries leagues. That is (I believe) because it is cool and trendy. Sure when leagues have 100s of millions or even billions to spend on players, you have to have a higher level of play.
        Or in Central America and Africa where world football is the main sport, you have a larger player pool.
        I get real mad when even MLS pundits act like it is great when teams sell off their best young U.S. or Canadian players, they are the future of the league. After developing these players via academies they should keep them for at least five years to get their money back and if they still want to go to Europe for the big bucks, there will be a bigger return.

      • Buckles

        June 27, 2022 at 4:44 pm

        All they need is people watching here in America. I don’t think many Europeans are going to watch MLS. Many of them are soccer snobs. They wouldn’t even drink Budweiser beer in Germany during WC2006. Can’t blame them cuz German beer is exceptional. Also, during the podcast they mentioned about soccer competing with other sports in Europe too. That was a bit misleading. No European country has 4 other major league sports vying for attention. Sorry but cycling in Italy isn’t more popular than a serie A club team. Europe doesn’t have baseball, football, basketball and even hockey competing with soccer. If you factor that in, MLS hasn’t done that poorly ratings wise. I’ve watched the South American leagues and Liga MX among others. It’s good but I’d rather watch MLS. I know you can get some brutal games in MLS, but that happens in those other leagues as well. Ra definitely has a sophisticated and very knowledgeable palate for soccer, but most Americans aren’t going to watch the Brazilian league over MLS if they are soccer fans. I hope this new deal is good for MLS. I’m definitely mixed on it.

    • dave

      June 27, 2022 at 5:50 pm

      @Edwin et al, below is a link to 2020 survey data for you to chew on. As with any survey results, take with a grain of salt. While there are no cross-tabs, demographic summaries, etc., top-line findings are interesting:
      .
      * MLS is roughly as popular as EPL and Bundesliga in the US (Liga MX not surveyed)
      * MLS is roughly as popular in Mexico and Brazil as it is in the US (MLS is well behind top European leagues in both countries and neither domestic league was surveyed)
      * MLS (and all US sports) is not very popular in Europe
      * With the exception of US and Poland, the main domestic soccer league is #1, #2, or #3 when fans in the country are asked freeform to list their favorite sport
      .
      https://www.altmansolon.com/insights/us-euro-sports-survey-spotlight/

      • Edwin

        June 30, 2022 at 12:41 am

        Nothing to chew on as I what I said was correct. Lol Bundesliga ain’t even in the same ball park as viewership or popularity in the US. Where did you pull that junk survey from. Bundesliga can’t even get higher viewership average than MLS chew on that.

  3. JP

    June 26, 2022 at 10:12 am

    The ability for ESPN or any other linear television partner to change match times is a bad idea for MLS. If history is any guide, they’ll try to shoehorn matches where they don’t have college softball or other obligations, almost an afterthought.

    The most promising part of the deal with Apple is the new consistency match days (wed/sat) and times (presumed 6 hour block based on their whip around coverage plans). They must insist any linear partner adhere to those options for match times. If the linear wants to carve out a match window that’s stand alone, should still be within that specific block. Maybe last Wednesday or Saturday match is stand alone/national.

    Kartik’s worries about the match times being too hot etc is misplaced. There are regularly afternoon matches already (3pm). If MLS goes to 6-8-10pm start times or something similar there is no problem at all. 6pm is fine even on hot east coast days, as most of the season the sun is setting soon and will be cooler as the match goes on. Same logic for 10pm (EST) for west coast matches.

    The biggest problem for MLS is if this is priced uncompetitively compared to other soccer streaming options. Right now is the time of year I’d usually have most casual interest in MLS, but got hooked on Brazil Serie A and not even thinking about MLS as an option. I don’t see anyone except for MLS hardcore supporters paying for the MLS package unfortunately. Soccer fans in general have too many options already with better quality. They must include with an AppleTV+ subscription, at least at the start.

    • Ra

      June 26, 2022 at 11:34 am

      The Atletico-Fortaleza game yesterday was great. I recommend it if you didn’t watch.

      • JP

        June 26, 2022 at 11:59 am

        👍🏻 That match was amazing. Leaning towards Botafogo/Flu and Ceara/Atletico GO today, reassess at HT.

        • Ra

          June 26, 2022 at 12:01 pm

          Bota-Flu will be my first choice as well. 😀

    • jason

      June 26, 2022 at 2:05 pm

      So far in the summer weeks, I have gotten hooked on the Norway Eliteserien actually. Not MLS! Best thing is that there is no commentary in the Norway games. Just the crowd noise.

      https://elevensports.com/en/competition/norwegian-eliteserien/season/2022

  4. greg

    June 26, 2022 at 9:31 am

    Good discussion. I agree that it’s a bit early to say what the Apple deal’s effect will be on MLS…price point and all. From a purely personal perspective, I like it – I just moved to Europe from the US…I have Apple+ (good shows beyond Ted Lasso) but I doubt I’ll subscribe to the paid MLS tier, regardless of cost. But because the rights are global I probably will watch the odd MLS match on the free tier without having to go thru VPN.

    re: the lazy punditry characterization about how Real Madrid “just knows how to win UCL”…it’s not that lazy. There’s been a bunch of stories in the Athletic, Guardian and ESPN dot com where the players themselves say as much – that playing on that team, in that shirt carries not only expectations but the current group – Modric et all – they’ve been thru it so much that they are calm and have confidence that they’ll win. And this is the players saying it. So an unfair description of writers and commentators who say that.

    • Ra

      June 26, 2022 at 10:19 am

      I think you will end up getting the MLS add-on if you watch it occasionally, or getting it for free. Apple will have to discriminate prices if they are to make any use of their rights outside NAFTA. I can tell you right now how many subscribers they will get in EU and Latam if they charge the same price as in the US. 0, except for the odd US-expat. If Disney is charging $7 for all EU leagues and the big 4 US sports, Motorsport and Tennis, Apple would have to charge a symbolic fee , or include all games on AppleTV+. My money is that they will include on AppleTV+, and won’t make any fuzz about it.
      I am curious to see how they will reinforce the geographic rights. You can now subscribe to AppleTV abroad and access it here – same goes for Netflix and Disney+.
      If they include it on AppleTV+ abroad, my be is that you can subscribe from the US , and be able to watch all games using VPN.

      • Ra

        June 26, 2022 at 10:27 am

        Check this link to see price discrimination in practice. US:$80/yr, Brazil $40/yr, Mexico: $950/year (=don’t bother US, go watch on cable).
        https //www.formula1.com/en/subscribe-to-f1-tv.html#en-US
        I am always comparing prices in different parts of the world. Interested to see how it goes with Apple.

  5. dave

    June 23, 2022 at 7:21 pm

    Terrific! I love the format given the topic – great questions and ideas from listeners, followed by your insights. Very helpful for forming and revising thoughts about Apple-MLS
    .
    * I watched the USL game on ESPN per your recommendation. Very enjoyable. Felt more genuine and less corporatized than leagues I typically follow. Good atmosphere and soccer
    .
    * That said, 200k on ESPN is not amazing. ESPN sometimes draw 100k-150k for late night reruns. I suspect a baseline of sports fans may keep ESPN on as they go about their day, fall asleep while ESPN plays, etc.
    .
    * I disagree that ESPN+, Star+, etc. is more confusing than Apple. Apple TV (device), Apple TV (app), tabs/apps within Apple TV, Apple TV+, iTunes vs. App Store, etc. Seems particularly opaque for Android users who are not acclimated to the Apple ecosystem
    .
    * USSF and MLS/SUM are, and should act as, separate entities. I believe USSF control Pro League Standards, which should be set to optimize soccer in the US. Whether a potential change helps or hurts MLS/SUM should not be a deciding factor. Shame on USSF if otherwise

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