Often summed up as a tournament for European players before retirement, MLS has nothing to be ashamed of. After developing their training system extensively over the past 10 years – which many young talents started with – the North American League received an exciting TV deal with Apple on June 15. The multinational will pay Apple $2.5 billion (2.3 billion euros) over the next 10 years to stream all matches on its Apple TV streaming platform.
This is an increase of nearly 400% over the value of the current rights, with MLS receiving just under $70 million annually (€66 million) since 2015 with ESPN and Fox, in traditional American television. On the audience side, the MLS averaged 276,000 spectators per game in 2021, up 15.5% from the previous year.
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Interesting numbers, but still low when compared to other American leagues, such as the NBA (1.4 million spectators) or the NFL (17.1 million). “You might think Apple overpaid for MLS rights this year, but you’d probably say it overpaid less than ten years from now.”says Brad Adgate, a US-based marketing and media consultant. “They are betting that MLS will grow. The numbers prove it so far, and it should help the 2026 World Cup in North America a lot.”
A new step towards the migration of sports on the Internet
The new partnership with Apple is a huge step forward for MLS, which has been shown on traditional TV so far. But unlike other US sports leagues and European football, which have an increasingly aging audience, MLS attracts a young and ethnically diverse audience. “Football is a modern sport in the United States. It is widely practiced and watched by young people who leave television to watch online content,” Brad Adgate sums it up.
Blaise Matuidi (Inter Miami) in the MLS
Credit: Getty Images
The agreement between MLS and Apple is another step towards the migration of online sports. It is a global trend. The NBA is available on the streaming service Hulu, the Formula 1 series debuted on Netflix and the French Football Championship is now available on Amazon… They are all trying to reach the younger generations.”continue past.
Apple is a strong partner
After the failure of Mediapro in 2020, Ligue 1 relied on Amazon in June 2021, spending 80% of its online matches on Prime Video Streaming.. “League 1 matches are only available to our users in France and the French territory”However, select Amazon France. MLS and Apple have made another choice because US Championship matches will be available worldwide from next year. The two partners also intend to invest in content in three languages: English, Spanish and French.
“Their strategy is really international, and the deal is particularly innovative because after 2.5 billion in ten years, MLS will receive commissions on the number of subscriptions sold.” Brad Adagte details. “And that won’t stop them from continuing to do more with traditional television stations in the United States and other parts of the world.”
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Apple really gained a foothold in American sports in March, by broadcasting two MLB (Major League Baseball) games per week, presented every Friday night on Apple TV and accessible in eight countries including the UK, Brazil and Japan, as well as the US and Canada. MLS is the second sporting acquisition of the apple giant, which does not intend to stop there.
We are talking about a company with a turnover of 378 billion US dollars in 2020 (361 billion euros). 250 million dollars a year for MLS (239 million euros) means almost nothing.” Adgate thought before adding: “Apple will continue to advance towards sports broadcasting and is a cutting-edge technology company, making it the best possible ally for the future.”
long term contract
MLS and Apple have committed to the next 10 years, a particularly difficult period in France, where broadcasters are only committed to three to five years. “It’s a normal duration in American sports. Here, broadcasters and sports leagues generally agree on eight to ten years. This allows both parties to project themselves financially over the long term, to confront the unknown more easily – a global pandemic, for example – and to allow broadcasters to better negotiate their their advertising contracts.Adgate details.
A modus operandi, he says, that makes the scenario of Mediapro in the United States not possible. I don’t remember a station going bankrupt or forced into retirement. MLS is in good hands with Apple. Both parties will work together to increase the league’s visibility.”
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