Apple Reaches Media Rights Deal With Major League Soccer

Updated: Jul 20



Apple and Major League Soccer (MLS) have agreed on a 10-year deal to air all MLS content, including games, exclusively on Apple TV for a reported worth of at least $250 million annually. It is the first time a big-five sports league will air all its content with a digital media company rather than a traditional TV network.


As a part of the deal, MLS will shift its schedule to Saturday games (with some on Wednesday games), and Apple will air all games on a separate app on Apple TV, which will require a subscription unless you are a season ticket holder.


Apple Invests in Live Sports


While it is the first time Apple has inked a deal with a big-five league for all content, it is not Apple’s first investment in live sports. In March, Apple reached a deal with Major League Baseball (MLB) to stream Friday baseball games and create a new live show, which will feature highlights and analysis.


Additionally, Apple is expected to acquire NFL Sunday Ticket after DirecTV’s deal expires at the end of the 2022 season. The deal could include the new NFL Plus streaming service, which the league announced at the NFL owners’ meetings in May.


Apple’s major investments in live sports come after Apple announced in January that it was ready to spend billions on live sports to boost subscription numbers. Apple’s subscription numbers pale in comparison to other services at 20 million subscribers in the United States and Canada, compared to Disney+ at 42.9 million and Netflix at 74.5. Thus, in an effort to make up the gap in subscription numbers, Apple will continue its shift toward live sports.


The Future of Sports


Apple is not the only digital-media giant to invest in live sports. In 2021, Amazon inked a $1 billion deal with the NFL to carry Thursday night football games on Amazon Prime. Moreover, Amazon reached a separate $1 billion agreement to carry Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 soccer games.


Live sports is the last frontier for streaming services. Before, traditional cable and satellite television was the only way to view live sports, including through regional sports networks (RSNs). Since 2015, customers have been abandoning live television in favor of streaming services, which has led to cable and television abandoning RSNs rather than paying the rising costs for RSNs. Now, streaming services are claiming the market by being able to offer top dollar for live sports content, which could drive RSNs out of the market.


While streaming services will continue to enlist live sports content, fans should focus on 2024, when the NBA will negotiate its media rights. ESPN currently holds the NBA’s media rights. However, if ESPN were to lose the NBA’s media rights to Apple or another digital media company, there could be a major shakeup in the industry, including Apple potentially acquiring ESPN.


Overall, this is an area for digital media companies to continue expanding. Therefore, fans and media alike will continue to discuss this topic in the future.


Landis Barber is an attorney at Safran Law Offices in Raleigh, North Carolina. You can connect with him via LinkedIn or via his blog offthecourtdocket.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Landisbarber.