Why Apple TV has become the exclusive streaming home for Major League Soccer

Why Apple TV has become the exclusive streaming home for Major League Soccer

Los Angeles Galaxy player Sebastian Lletget, left, kicks the ball during an MLS game against FC Dallas in July 2021 in Carson. FC Dallas forward Jesus Ferreira is second from right. (Associated Press)

Major League Soccer has awarded the exclusive global streaming rights to its games to Apple in a 10-year deal, further cementing the tech giant’s foray into live sports.

With the package, announced Tuesday, the MLS became the second major sports league to enter a media rights agreement with the Cupertino, Calif.-based company. Apple landed an exclusive package of Friday night Major League Baseball contests that began this season on its Apple TV streaming platform.

The deal, the terms of which have not been disclosed but is reportedly worth about $2.5 billion over the entire contract, is also another significant migration of live sports from TV to a streaming platform. Amazon has the NFL’s Thursday night football package starting in the upcoming season and exclusive local rights to 20 New York Yankees games.

Soccer has been seen as a prime target for streaming services. The sport lacks the broad appeal in the US of other major professional leagues, but it does have a passionate fan base that is younger than those for other events.

For its MLS deal, Apple is creating a subscription service to present the matches and related content such as highlight shows, replays and whip-arounds to live action throughout the league.

“For the first time in the history of sports, fans will be able to access everything from a major professional sports league in one place,” Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of services, said in a statement. “It’s a dream come true for MLS fans, soccer fans, and anyone who loves sports. No fragmentation, no frustration — just the flexibility to sign up for one convenient service that gives you everything MLS, anywhere and anytime you want to watch.”

The deal with Apple will end Major League Soccer’s relationship with regional sports TV networks around the country, which will no longer have local rights to the games.

The deal is expected to have a significant effect on how much MLS will be available on national TV networks. The pacts with the league’s current partners — Walt Disney Co.’s ESPN, Fox Corp.’s Fox Sports and Univision — are up at the end of this season. They are expected to have a limited number of games in the next contract if they renew.

A broad selection of games will be available through the Apple TV app at no additional cost to those who already subscribe to Apple TV+. Pricing for subscriptions of the new MLS streaming service will be announced in the coming months, the company said.

ESPN walked away from the package that went to Apple and will lose the rights to matches carried on ESPN+, its streaming service.

“We continue to have a great relationship with MLS and are proud of the role we’ve played in helping grow the league and the sport in the US,” a representative of ESPN said in a statement, noting that the company will still have more than 2,500 soccer games per year across its platforms.

Major League Soccer was founded in 1994 and has 29 teams throughout the US and Canada, including two in Los Angeles, the Galaxy and the Los Angeles Football Club.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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