Apple TV+ made a “Ted Lasso” move earlier this week by finalizing a deal with Major League Soccer. Apple’s premium subscription streaming service has been in negotiations with MLS since the summer of 2021.
Ted Lasso is a Golden Globe-winning comedy show about an American who gets a job coaching soccer in the UK. Seemingly out of place and inexperienced, he nevertheless succeeds. Never underestimate the power of earnest endeavor.
Like the fictional character of Ted Lasso becoming head coach of a UK soccer team, Apple closing the deal with MLS was “one of the most shocking sports rights deals in history.”
The closing of the deal states that for a minimum of $2.5 billion over the course of the agreement, Apple has secured the rights to stream “every MLS match, on a new service within the Apple TV app,” beginning in winter 2023, the start of the next season.
MLS will utilize the cash from this new deal to improve salary caps for players, renovate stadiums, and build new ones. Those who have Apple TV devices and streaming subscriptions will be able to watch some games for free, while Apple TV+ customers will have access to more.
One of the head executives at Apple in charge of the deal, Eddy Cue, stated that the company has never before had the opportunity to work “with a league that is basically saying, ‘Every single game, all around the world’ and ‘What can we do together to grow the sport to make everything better for the customer?'”
The deal will also include a “weekly, live, whip-around show” on Saturday nights, showcasing highlights from matches during the week, sports commentary, and more.
Don Garber, the MLS commissioner, explained how this arrangement is unlike “traditional” broadcast arrangements.
“This idea [is] taking our local games, taking all of our games that traditionally were on linear networks, taking our games that we would sell globally, and then taking all the content that we’re producing over the years … and aggregating all of that into one package and trying to deliver that to one partner that can make it easy for our fans to access everything that they love about the game,” he said.
Garber went on to say that the MLS is not where it would like to be in terms of television compared to other sports leagues.
Out of the fog bursts Apple TV, which is going full “Ted Lasso” on the MLS project.
The two companies hope Apple’s dip into a major sport outside of the U.S. will bring MLS into more households — with Apple TV device owners and Apple TV+ subscribers — everywhere.
As for MLS’s newest partner, with Apple on their team, Garber expects MLS viewership will look much different this time next year.
With just a hint of British understatement, he said, “I believe, undoubtedly, that it’ll change going forward.”