Sports Media: MLS, Apple appear pleased with media deal so far – Sports Business Journal

You will be able to share this link with anyone and everyone, even on social media.
* Please fill out the form below in order to receive your shareable link.

As Apple’s Eddy Cue began speaking to a room filled with MLS owners and executives last week in Washington, D.C., he harked back to conversations he had with league officials a year earlier, just as Apple was signing a 10-year deal for the league’s media rights.
At that time, Cue recalled last Wednesday, when several MLS owners and league executives came up to him and asked what the teams could do to help ensure that the groundbreaking deal was successful, Cue would offer the same response — sign good players.
Addressing the MLS board of governors just days before the world’s greatest soccer player, Lionel Messi, would debut for Inter Miami CF, Cue smiled and told the group of MLS owners and officials, “Boy did you deliver.”
That was the main message from the mouths of everybody associated with MLS last week during the run-up to the league’s All-Star Game. Nearly five months into its first season with Apple holding its media rights, MLS executives and owners — both publicly and privately — said they are happy with the results so far.
And with Messi active for the second half of the year, they all believe results will be turbocharged. “It’s still early in the relationship, but so far, we couldn’t be more thrilled,” MLS Commissioner Don Garber said.
It’s impossible to truly evaluate any of those claims. Apple has a well-earned reputation as one of the most secretive companies in the world. The number of MLS Season Pass subscribers is a closely guarded secret. Viewership figures for individual games are never shared publicly. Multiple high-level club business executives said they were required by to sign non-disclosure agreements in order to see any numbers pertaining to the number of MLS Season Pass subscribers.
Team executives privately have expressed frustration about being kept in the dark. One owner described a level of frustration among his team officials over the lack of transparency in who is watching their games, especially compared to past years when teams had viewership statistics down to the quarter-hour for their local and national games.
Sources said MLS Season Pass is approaching 1 million subscribers, a number that includes season-ticket holders who are provided access as part of their purchase. In early June, those same sources had the MLS Season Pass subscriber base at 700,000, which league executives believe shows good growth, and they expect that number to balloon even further once Messi starts playing.
This is another point where team executives privately are expressing some frustrations over specifics into who, exactly, is a Season Pass subscriber. The large number of sign-ups is good for big sponsors like Adidas. Adding subscribers in Argentina may help Apple and big MLS sponsors like Adidas, but it doesn’t do much for teams that try to sign up local sponsors.
MLS executives spent last week in D.C. saying the numbers they have seen have beat expectations. Privately, they complain that there’s too much focus on specific numbers — viewership, subscriber numbers, advertising — especially considering that they are just a couple of months into a 10-year deal.
Instead, they point to the way Apple has integrated the league into its other businesses. MLS stadiums and nearby restaurants are part of Apple’s Maps app. MLS-inspired playlists are part of Apple Music.
“It’s truly a partnership,” Garber said. “It’s not a rights deal where it’s just about ‘we have these available windows, we’ll pay you to put your product on in those available windows, we’ll promote them to our audiences.’ It’s more about how can we be integrated within the entire Apple ecosystem and create a global offering for fans in a very easy and an accessible way.”
Gary Stevenson, deputy commissioner and managing director of MLS business ventures, pointed to the high quality of Apple’s production as another selling point for the new deal, especially considering the low production values for previous years’ games on regional sports networks.
Stevenson mentioned that games were being produced in 1080p, which provides for clear, high-definition video. League games are produced in three languages, not including radio broadcasts. Apple produced a graphics package that gives productions a more modern look and feel.
Then there’s the multiview channel that shows more than one game on a single screen. “We heard from fans that they wanted multicast,” Stevenson said. “We had it up and running in a month.”
This season, MLS moved to put the overwhelming majority of its games on Saturdays and Wednesdays, in addition to having all games on one media outlet. League executives believe the new schedule makes it more intuitive for fans to figure out where to find the games.
There’s been a push by some teams to create more exclusive windows, especially to showcase a star like Messi — imagine something like a “Monday Night Messi” game. While condensing the schedule makes it easier to find games, fans of a certain team generally don’t get to see other teams play.
While there’s still a lot of time to make changes for next season, MLS executives said they would like to keep this schedule intact for at least one more season.
John Ourand can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @Ourand_SBJ and read his weekly newsletter and listen to his weekly podcast
Infantino touts WWC success heading into the final, Messi's message, Kliavkoff's role in PAC-12's next steps, and the Phillies look to improve fan entry.
SBJ I Factor presented by Allied Sports features an interview with Amy Azzi, senior director and head of sponsorships for T-Mobile, and a member of Sports Business Journal’s Forty Under 40 class of 2022. Azzi talks with SBJ’s Ross Nethery about how an early interest in what goes on behind the scenes led to a career that has included college athletics, agency work and brand marketing. Azzi also talks about her growth as a leader, what makes a good teammate, and the value of asking for what you need.
Cox Pavilion in Las Vegas on Friday night will play host to the return of SlamBall, and league co-founder Mike Tollin credits an organic groundswell among fans as a key impetus in bringing the sport back to life in the U.S. Tollin, who also serves as Mandalay Sports Media co-chair, spoke with SBJ’s Austin Karp about the relationship with broadcast partner ESPN, how the funding efforts exceeded expectations, as well as the potential roles both sports wagering and social media could play.

Shareable URL copied to clipboard!
Sorry, something went wrong with the copy but here is the link for you.
Register for a free SBJ account to unlock one extra article per month.

© 2023 Leaders Group. All rights reserved.The material on this site may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, cached or otherwise used, except with the prior written permission of Leaders Group.
© 2023 Leaders Group. All rights reserved. The material on this site may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, cached or otherwise used, except with the prior written permission of Leaders Group.
Already a subscriber? Click below to sign in.
Upgrade your subscription to get all the news you need:
Adding SBJ weekly content will give you the comprehensive view of sports business with:
Already a subscriber? Click below to sign in.
Upgrade your subscription to get all the news you need:
Adding SBJ daily content will give you the comprehensive view of sports business with:


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back To Top