Apple’s MLS Deal Seems to Be Doing Well

John Ourand and Alex Silverman, reporting for Sports Business Journal:

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.”

Messi’s debut on Friday was spectacularly dramatic — a game-winning free kick in extra time. If you put that in a movie script people would roll their eyes.

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 [Apple, sic] to sign non-disclosure agreements in order to see any numbers pertaining to the number of MLS Season Pass subscribers. [...]

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.

One of the striking differences between traditional TV broadcasting and streaming — not just for sports, but everything — is that with traditional TV, viewership ratings are public. The networks brag about high ratings. With streaming, viewership is a tightly-held secret. Is 1 million subscribers an accurate count for MLS Season Pass? Only Apple knows. Is that a good number? It’s hard to say, because the NFL, NBA, and MLB keep the numbers for their equivalent subscription packages secret too.

Tuesday, 25 July 2023