Apple and MLS have agreed a $2.5 billion broadcast rights package over 10 years, from early 2023 through 2032 .
This represents a major investment in Live Sports by Apple, which broadcasts North American Football League matches through its streaming service.
And while some matches may still be broadcast on networks like ESPN and Fox, this gives Apple the exclusive global offer of the league.
To watch the matches, fans can subscribe to a new, currently unnamed MLS streaming service that is available exclusively through the Apple TV app.
A wide range of MLS and Leagues Cup matches are available to Apple TV Plus subscribers, with a limited number of matches available for free.
And unlike many sports broadcasting deals, there will be no interruptions or local restrictions. MLS Commissioner Don Garber said the agreement was structured as a minimal guarantee with Apple with the possibility of additional revenue sharing and the sale of some traditional TV rights.
Garber explained that bringing the league live to broadcast allows MLS to expand its appeal overseas rather than being the North American version of the global game.
Apple pays MLS at least $250 million annually for games beginning in 2023. The deal represents the technology group’s second direct sports rights deal and its first comprehensive rights package with League.
Earlier this year, Apple struck a deal with Major League Baseball to broadcast Friday night games. That made it join Silicon Valley peers like Amazon in competing with traditional broadcasters for the rights to live sports.
Sports are the next battleground for living room ownership among the big tech companies. This is a statement of intent by Apple. It should now be considered a serious player in sports rights in key markets for its products.
The Apple deal runs from early 2023 until 2032
“Focusing all MLS matches across the platform eliminates issues for fans who typically have to switch between different networks or platforms to watch them,” said Eddie Keogh, Apple’s senior vice president of services.
The major North American professional leagues divided broadcasting rights among a variety of networks. This method helps the owners to get the highest price. But it causes confusion for fans, and sometimes leads to interruptions in the show
The Apple and MLS deal comes on the heels of another massive media rights package for the Indian Premier League. The deal this week distributed streaming franchises for nearly $6 billion.
Disney retains the broadcast rights to Major League Soccer and the Indian Premier League under their current terms.
In 2021, viewership for MLS matches on ABC and ESPN increased by 39% compared to 2019. It reached an average of 384,000 viewers.