Major League Soccer has reduced the number of commentators and analysts calling games on MLS Season Pass in 2024. The MLS Season Pass budget cuts are part of a business effort to reduce costs after spending on production costs exceeded expectations last year, sources told World Soccer Talk.

In total, 18 people have been cut from the MLS talent department on Apple TV. Of those who are coming back in 2024, sources revealed to World Soccer Talk that some are taking pay cuts of up to 33%.

While less talent is returning to MLS Season Pass this year, every game will have the same number of talent calling matches (i.e. a commentator paired with a co-commentator).

MLS Season Pass budget cuts

Several stars have not been renewed for this year. Those include referee rules analyst Christina Unkel, Spanish-language announcer Ramses Sandoval, plus Jenn Hildreth and Danielle Slaton.

Also gone are popular commentators Andres Cordero and Adrian Healey, as well as analyst Nigel Reo-Coker.

When reached for comment, MLS EVP of Media Seth Bacon told World Soccer Talk, “We are incredibly proud of what we accomplished last year. We’re equally excited about what’s going to happen this year, and we think we’ve made a lot of smart moves and investments in production technology, in talent – both in front of and behind the camera. We know that we’re going to deliver another great product in 2024.

“With any production that you have, on-air talent is a critical component and we wouldn’t be where we are if it weren’t for all of the work that everyone did last year, and the work that people are going to do this year. We appreciate and thank all of our talent for all the work that they do to contribute to the success of MLS Season Pass.”

Big losses and big gains in talent

Of the MLS talent not returning, Unkel not being involved in MLS Season Pass is a huge miss. Her analysis of key refereeing decisions on MLS 360 was one of the best parts of the whip-around show. Unkel, who continues to work as a referee rules analyst for CBS Sports, is the president of Tampa Bay Sun FC, a brand-new women’s professional soccer team in the USL Super League.

Other talent not rehired for 2024 includes (in alphabetical order): Juan Arango, Patrice Bernier, Olivier Brett, Ed Cohen, Matthew Cullen, Gavino De Falco, Jeremy Filosa, Stefano Fusaro, Sonny Guadarrama, Jose Hernandez, Sebastien Le Toux and Jamie Watson.

While 18 members of talent have exited MLS Season Pass, 2024 will bring in eight new broadcasters. Those are Giovanni Savarese, Jalil Anibaba, Jesus Bracamontes, Daniel Chapela, Neil Sika, Joe Tolleson, John Laguna and Jesus Acosta.

Savarese will star in the new Spanish-language version of MLS 360 alongside the returning Tony Cherchi and Miguel Gallardo. Certainly, MLS is making a concerted effort to reach or surpass the high bar it achieved last year on the English-language version of MLS 360, so creating a Spanish-language version of the show shows the league’s commitment to putting out a strong product.

More positives for 2024

Looking ahead to 2024, MLS lead analyst Taylor Twellman was optimistic about MLS Season Pass. Speaking on the Alexi Lalas podcast, Twellman said, “I think Major League Soccer has got a better understanding of what they want to do with their product and how they want to deliver it.

“I think Apple has a better understanding of what they need to improve on.”

Meanwhile, MLS Season Pass has surpassed two million subscribers per a report by Sports Business Journal. Those include MLS Season Pass given away for free to MLS season ticket holders as well as those getting the service for free through T-Mobile. The number of paid subscribers has not been publicly reported. Importantly, MLS has still not hit the threshold yet that the league needs to achieve to generate more rights revenue above the $250 million that Apple pays MLS each year. That $250 million/year is a sizable increase compared to the $95 million per year MLS got in its last TV deal. However, MLS is on the hook for production costs under its agreement with Apple.

MLS’ 2024 season begins on February 21 on MLS Season Pass.

Analysis

The 2023 launch of MLS Season Pass was a massive undertaking for Major League Soccer as it poured a lot of money, time, and energy into creating a seamless streaming experience.

With any business, lessons are always learned after year one of a giant project, and the same applies to MLS. While MLS is trimming its budget on talent, it’s spending money to enhance the viewing experience in other ways such as integrating more technology, the aforementioned MLS 360 in Spanish, and better production.

Additionally, both English and Spanish pregame shows will be extended to an hour for this season. At the same time, no other league is making every single game available worldwide in 1080p.

Guide to Major League Soccer

Here are some resources to help you get the most out of MLS Season Pass!
TV Schedule: All the info on where and when to watch every game
Season Pass FAQ: We answer your questions about MLS Season Pass
Sign up: Learn how to subscribe to MLS Season Pass
Commentators: Check out who's calling the action for the MLS season
Android users Tips for fans Android users on how to watch MLS Season Pass