Apple Inc. has secured the long-term rights to stream Major League Soccer, taking another step in its growing ambitions as a sports broadcaster.
Apple will begin streaming the soccer matches next year as part of a 10-year deal. Fans will be able to watch the matches through a new subscription-based MLS product available through the Apple TV app, according to a statement. Some matches will be available for free to subscribers of Apple TV+, the tech company’s general-interest streaming service.
In March, Apple reached a deal with Major League Baseball to air Friday night games on Apple TV+ this season. The company has reportedly shown interest in picking up the NFL Sunday Ticket package now held by DirecTV.
Deals between the U.S. men’s professional soccer league and Walt Disney Co.’s ESPN, Fox and Univision expire this year. More than a dozen companies expressed interest in acquiring the rights, including tech giants like Amazon.com Inc. and Apple and traditional media companies Warner Bros. Discovery Inc. and Paramount Global.
With viewership rising, the league aimed to collect much more than the $90 million a year it received under the previous agreement. Apple is paying a minimum guarantee worth $250 million per year, according to Sports Business Journal.
MLS struck a deal with Apple partly because it would allow the league to showcase its games in one place and boost MLS’s popularity globally, especially since the league features many players from foreign countries, according to Commissioner Don Garber.
“What we’re trying to do here is aggregate as much of our content together to make it easy for our fans, wherever they are, however they consume,” Garber said during a press conference Tuesday.
The agreement means that Disney’s ESPN+ streaming service will lose the MLS games it has been airing at the end of the year. The league is still in talks to sell their traditional TV rights. Asked about ESPN, Garber told reporters that “we’re in discussions for them to continue with us.”
MLS will handle the broadcast production for the matches. Every MLS season ticket holder will get a free subscription to the new streaming service. The service’s price wasn’t disclosed.
The deal is another sign of how soccer has become the go-to sports property of the streaming era. Paramount+ airs Italy’s Serie A matches. NBC’s Peacock has the English Premier League, which it renewed in November for more than $2.5 billion. ESPN+ has Spain’s La Liga and Germany’s Bundesliga.
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