Technology giants Apple have made their first foray into live football broadcasting after striking a significant long-term global partnership with Major League Soccer.
The sports broadcasting world has changed markedly in recent years as streaming platforms become major players in the market and viewers’ habits change.
Apple have made their biggest move in that realm to date by signing a 10-year partnership with MLS to show all matches across the world – a deal the league hails as a “historic first for a major professional sports league”.
The agreement kicks off in early 2023 and MLS commissioner Don Garber believes that Apple TV will provide the catalyst for the ever-improving competition to grow even further.
“This (partnership) sort of seems like a bit of the icing on the cake,” the MLS commissioner told the PA news agency.
“We really have been very focused on building a league that we all can be proud of, that could become one of the top leagues in the world, that could show fans here and globally that America, North America, are soccer markets.
“And now with a global opportunity to build a fan base with the leader in global product and global technology and global innovation, it’s going to allow us to expand beyond our borders.
“This gives us the ability to participate not only in the global market for players but on the global market for fans, and that any game, anytime, anywhere without restrictions really is the rocket fuel that’s going to get us to that point.
“So, it is the perfect sort of end to the previous beginning and gives us a new sort of journey towards the World Cup and beyond.”
Garber said MLS is “very pleased with the financials” of a deal that, among other things, will allow for an improved schedule, better quality broadcasts and see season ticket holders at the clubs receive a subscription.
This is just Apple’s second rights deal for live sports having acquired a package with Major League Baseball in March, but they have achieved great success in football with their comedy-drama Ted Lasso.
Apple’s senior vice president of services Eddy Cue believes this unique partnership is a “huge, huge opportunity for both of us to do something great”.
“Look, it’s a huge moment for sports,” Cue told the PA news agency. “It’s a dream come true for fans.
“It’s truly the first time ever that fans can access everything – every game from a major professional sports league in one place. There’s no blackouts, no restrictions. It’s going to be incredibly fun.
“We’re excited about the viewing experience we can bring. I can guarantee you it’s going to reflect Apple’s style of dedication that we have to great customer experience, so we’re excited to share more of that as details come about.
“We’re also committed to growing the sport of soccer with MLS.
“It’s already the fastest growing sport in North America and we’re really excited about having people fall in love with MLS, rooting for their favourite club.
“When you look, it’s only going to get bigger: the World Cup is coming to the US, Canada and Mexico in 2026.”
Apple’s move into football will attract the interest of competitions across the globe given the company has long been linked with a move into the live rights arena.
Cue says there is “nothing certainly to talk about beyond” the MLS deal right now but said the company “want to bring the best content that we can in a way that only that we can do”.
Pushed on whether Apple would do further deals within football in the future, he said: “I never say never to anything from that standpoint, but it’s not that we’re actively trying to do and find things.
“We’re trying to find unique opportunities and I think MLS is in that position in a huge way and what we’re doing together I think is unprecedented and I’m truly, truly excited about what we’re going to build.”