Major League Soccer and Apple announced a revolutionary media agreement Tuesday. For Philadelphia Union fans and bettors, watching games will be mostly a streaming affair.
Beginning in 2023 and continuing for the next ten seasons, all MLS games, local and national will be streamed via AppleTV+. While this is a radical change from how Union games have been shown the last decade, it is putting domestic soccer in rarified air as the first major sports league in the United States to put all of its media rights on one streaming platform.
Currently, Union fans must surf through a myriad of channels to find their games. MLS current deals show games on ABC, Fox, ESPN, ESPN2, FS1 as well as Spanish outlets Univison, TUDN and UniMas. When not airing nationally, local broadcasters PHL 17 and 6ABC show games in the Philadelphia market. Games are streamed as part of a subscription on ESPN+ but not in the Union home territory.
What does the Apple TV deal mean for MLS and betting?
Moving forward, all games across the 29-team MLS will be available anywhere without blackout for a subscription to a specific MLS package within AppleTV+. Select games will also be made available to regular AppleTV+ subscribers. Union season ticket holders will have access to the MLS tier for free. Under this partnership, MLS will see a minimum of 2.5 billion dollars over the length of the deal.
This marks a major shift for AppleTV+ and major sports. Up to now, AppleTV+ sports offerings have been limited to a small package of Friday night Major League Baseball games and other small sports. Going all-in on MLS creates a world of possibilities for the broadcast and those who bet on them.
Partnering with a tech giant like Apple, MLS broadcasts can rely heavily on analytics that have come to be synonymous with its MLB broadcasts and can allow for more information to be transmitted to bettors in real-time. Making the television product more attractive to bettors will ultimately elevate the league among sportsbooks opening up untapped partnerships.
Additionally, this is a major shift for sports leagues. At first glance, taking games off traditional television might seem ludicrous when trying to appeal to a mass audience. But soccer has a consistently younger fan base than most major sports, and most of their fans are not tied to traditional TV. The so-called “cord cutters” are already subscribing to one or more streaming services. Having all Union and every other MLS game on one platform makes finding games much easier for their fanbase.
MLS has also committed to scheduling most games on Wednesdays and Saturdays again making their league destination viewing. MLS has also indicated, according to Sports Business Journal, that some games may still air on traditional broadcast or cable television including ESPN or Fox.
Opinions on the Apple TV, MLS deal
Andrew Marchand, a sports media columnist for the New York Post, and John Ourand, a media reporter at the Sports Business Journal shared their thoughts on the Apple/MLS media rights deal during their podcast.
“It’s impossible to say if this is a good or bad deal for MLS. Time will tell. I was covering the cable business when the NBA left NBC to go to ESPN and this has the same feel to it. Everybody said ‘why would you go to cable?’ Here, MLS is the first major sports league that has gone all-in with a digital media company. Hats off to Don Garber (MLS commissioner) for having the wherewithal to get this done.”
“I don’t initially really like it for MLS. It’s a big deal for Apple’s involvement long-term because of laying the groundwork to see if they can replicate it for the Premier League and La Liga. The dream for soccer fans like me in America is to have the Messis and Ronaldos in their prime coming here. They don’t have that. The dream is one day they are going to compete with the Premier League and get the best players. This deal is not doing that.”
MLS 2022 odds
Line movement at BetMGM PA sportsbook:
- Los Angeles FC: opened +700, now +475
- New York FC: opened +1000, now +650
- Philadelphia Union: opened +1600, now +900
- Seattle Sounders: opened +700, now +1400
- Nashville SC: opened +2500, now +2000
Highest handle percentage at BetMGM:
- Philadelphia Union 27.3%
- Nashville SC 15.2%
- New York City FC 11.8%
Odds to win the 2022 MLS Cup
Lead image Chris Szagola/AP