For the first time, a major U.S. sports league has chosen to have its next few years of games broadcast through streaming or other digital media. The MLS has signed a 10-year, global media rights deal with Apple to have the league’s games streamed on Apple TV.
For the MLS it represents a significant moment. The move to the streaming service will eliminate blackout restrictions and is a huge financial boost for the league as it continues to grow and expand.
MLS Leads the Way to New Television Future
Apple TV has been slowly entering the sports world over the last year. The service, which launched in November of 2019, has started to expand from original shows and movies into other media. As with Paramount+, Peacock, and Disney’s offering ESPN+, Apple has decided to add sports to its streaming service.
The first step into sports for Apple TV is the weekly Friday Night Baseball broadcasts in partnership with the MLB. During the first half of the 2022 season, those broadcasts are being offered for free within the Apple TV app to promote the service, before they transition to being exclusively available to Apple TV+ subscribers.
Now, Apple TV will expand its sports offering massively in its partnership with the MLS. The reportedly $250 million annual minimum guarantee will be a massive boost for league revenue as the MLS continues to grow. In addition, there is an opportunity for television revenue to grow during the deal as subscriptions to Apple TV’s MLS coverage increase.
For Apple, the agreement represents the biggest investment into sports they have made to date. The partnership will help fans subscribed to the service see more games across the league nationwide. Games will be split between a limited amount of games available for free within the Apple TV app, a group of games available to all Apple TV+ customers, and an MLS subscription service within Apple TV that covers every league game.
A Boost for the MLS
The deal represents a significant boost for the MLS and could have a massive impact on the future of the sport in the United States. Increased revenues from the television deal will help the league and its teams compete within the broader world of international soccer.
Since 2005, the MLS has rapidly expanded, with 18 teams joining the league in that time frame; with another set to join next year. The expansion has coincided with the growth of the league’s popularity within the United States and Canada.
MLS’ new deal will represent a significant financial boost for the league. As the MLS aspires to grow into one of the major soccer leagues in the world, the added revenue from this media rights deal will boost the league’s development. The increased financial investment will help increase the salary cap, and allow teams to sign more notable players from around the world.
Additionally, beyond just the ability for teams to add established players to their roster, the new revenues will also boost youth development within the MLS. As the MLS has grown and become more popular, the development of young players within the league has dramatically improved.
With the new revenue, youth programs and academies could be expanded. This will increase the quality of players within the MLS, and also will have impacts off of the field. Recently, European and other international teams have identified the MLS as a place to scout for talented young players.
Increased investment in youth development would help generate more revenue for teams through the transfer market when players MLS franchises have developed depart for other leagues. This could create a positive feedback loop for the MLS if this money were reinvested back into the league and the pace and quality of development continued to improve.
Overall, the MLS’ new media rights partnership with Apple is an exciting development for the league and the future of professional soccer in the United States and Canada. The deal will not only potentially increase viewership, but also increase the financial power of the league. In the future, it could positively affect MLS’ ability to continue to develop into a marquee sports organization not only in North America but in the broader international soccer landscape.