Apple's fight to ensure that Apple TV Plus is one of the best streaming services just got a bit more complete, thanks to a deal with Major League Soccer. Today (June 14), Apple announced that the Apple TV app will be "the exclusive destination to watch every single live MLS match beginning in 2023." The contract goes for 10 years.
When Apple states it has the 'exclusive' destination, it should be specified that games will appear in other places—just not every game. Sports Business Journal reports that the league "still is negotiating with linear TV networks, including ESPN and Fox." Apple's deal, though, is to have every game, with zero blackouts, though, so those channels will not be getting exclusives if they make deals.
Interestingly enough, this news isn't as easy as saying that all of the MLS will be in Apple TV Plus. While that service is getting "broad selection of MLS and League Cup matches, including some of the biggest matchups," the entirety of MLS action is sold in a different manner.
Apple will be housing a new MLS streaming service that's only available through the Apple TV app — pricing was not announced. Given that ESPN Plus just got a price hike, it will be interesting to see how this MLS streaming service is priced against its competition. This service will have plenty of ancillary content as well, giving fans "a new weekly live match whip-around show so they never miss an exciting goal or save, and also game replays, highlights, analysis, and other original programming."
The Apple TV app, in case you're wondering, isn't just on Apple hardware, but available on Amazon Fire TV sticks and other devices, Roku devices, PlayStation and Xbox consoles, the Chromecast with Google TV and popular smart TVs including those from Samsung, LG, Panasonic, TCL Sony and Vizio.
This follows Apple's deal with Major League Baseball to deliver a double-header of Friday Night Baseball games. When it comes to the streaming wars, live events are a huge part of the equation to bring people in and keep them subscribed — with Peacock and Paramount Plus offering live sports in one way or another.
Even Disney Plus is doing live events, as Dancing With The Stars will be a Disney Plus exclusive. Netflix, however isn't competing in this way, yet. That could change soon, though, as Netflix is said to be pursuing a deal with F1, which would be its first live-streaming event.
Analysis: Is this good or bad for fans?
The best news about this is that this is the first time that the entirety of a Big Five sports league will be streamed under the same streaming service. As I explained when writing about where to stream sports online, each league is massively fractured. And that's a pain if you cut the cord.
Apple's Eddy Cue (senior vice president of its Services division) is quoted in the press release breaking the news as saying "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."
Without pricing for this to-be-named service, it's hard to say if this will be a huge leap forward for fans. That said, the best upside of this deal is that cord-cutters won't need to select a cable TV alternative based on their sports team.
Often, folks need to get the $90 tier of DirecTV Stream to get the regional sports network they need for their team. This price isn't just high, it's annoying when you're trying to save money by cutting the cord — and Sling TV's $35 packages are enough for some folks.