MLS, Apple ink landmark broadcast deal to bring all league games to Apple TV

FILE – In this Feb. 26, 2020, file photo, Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber speaks during the leagues 25th Season kickoff event in New York, Feb. 26, 2020. Apple’s foray into live sports took a big step forward Tuesday, June 14, 2022. Apple and Major League Soccer have announced a 10-year partnership on a streaming service that will allow fans to watch every game without local blackouts or restrictions. The service will be available exclusively through the Apple TV app beginning next year. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

NYCFC and New York Red Bulls fans will need to get a streaming service if they hope to follow their favorite team next season. Major League Soccer and Apple announced on Tuesday that starting next season all MLS will be exclusively broadcast on Apple TV. 

The landmark 10-year agreement could mark a massive shift in sports broadcasting as streaming services become a major player in the landscape. Soccer fans will need to subscribe to a yet-to-be-named MLS package through the Apple TV app and more details about broadcast plans across the new service will be announced at a later date.

“For the first time in the history of sports, fans will be able to access everything from a major professional sports league in one place,” Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Services, said in a press release. “It’s a dream come true for MLS fans, soccer fans, and anyone who loves sports. No fragmentation, no frustration — just the flexibility to sign up for one convenient service that gives you everything MLS, anywhere and anytime you want to watch.

“We can’t wait to make it easy for even more people to fall in love with MLS and root for their favorite club.”

A limited number of matches will be free, according to a release from MLS, and the service will feature a weekly live “whip-around show” that will keep fas up to date on what is going on around the league on match days. The service is expected to feature an aray of live and on-demand content. 

Apple will pay MLS a minimum guaranteed fee of $250 million beginning next year, according to Sports Business Journal. The league is still negotiating with linear TV networks, like ESPN and Fox. 

“Apple is the perfect partner to further accelerate the growth of MLS and deepen the connection between our clubs and their fans,” MLS Commissioner Don Garber said in a statement. “Given Apple’s ability to create a best-in-class user experience and to reach fans everywhere, it’ll be incredibly easy to enjoy MLS matches anywhere, whether you’re a super fan or casual viewer.”

Signs that a shift in MLS’ broadcast plans began to take shape two years ago when the league instructed its member clubs not to sign any local TV deals beyond 2022. It wasn’t clear what the league’s plan was at the time, but since then a continued change in how consumers take in their sports content has occurred. 

The NFL and MLB have shifted some of their broadcasts to streaming platforms like Apple, Peacock and Amazon. Netflix has been rumored to be interested in broadcast rights for F1 racing as well. 

Since the Red Bulls days as the New York MetroStars, games have been carried locally on MSG Networks. NYCFC has had its games broadcast on YES Network since they entered the league in 2015.