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Apple’s Sports Streaming Switch Could Be What its TV+ Subscription Service Needs

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Updated 21 Jun 2022

Key points:

  • Apple TV+ signed a 10-year streaming deal with the MLS
  • With a lack of popular content, the streaming service has failed to gain momentum
  • Could a live sports streaming focus be just what it needs?

In January, Wedbush analyst Dan Ives told investors in a note that Apple was “ready to spend billions” on live sports streaming.

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Just a couple of months later, Apple announced a deal with Major League Baseball to show “Friday Night Baseball,” which, according to a recent report from social media-related consumer insights firm LikeFolio, has resulted in a jump in viewership each Friday.

As a result, Apple has gone further, striking a deal with Major League Soccer (MLS) to begin showing their matches exclusively on Apple TV+ from 2023.

The 10-year deal will see all MLS games shown on the platform from early 2023 to 2032, allowing fans globally to tune in to the matches.

Also Read: Who Are Apple’s Competitors?

Why Live Sports Streaming?

While Apple TV+ doesn’t release subscription numbers, it is estimated that the service has around 25 million subscribers. In addition, research has suggested that subscriber churn could be pretty elevated.

Despite the success of its Ted Lasso show, quality content on the platform seems to be few and far between. Just some basic research on Tweets will show various comments on users unsubscribing after watching the show or waiting for the show to return to subscribe.

But, Apple seems reluctant to take the Netflix approach of creating as much content as possible in the hope that a few hit it big.

Both Netflix and Apple don’t have the portfolio of a company like Disney to fall back on.

So without a robust catalogue of favoured content, Apple needs an already proven model to boost subscriber numbers and reduce that (rumoured churn). And where better to start than sports. According to the MLB, the top game watched in 2021 was on FIX and averaged 5.9 million viewers. Meanwhile, the average viewership of the MLS was reported in March to be 298,000 viewers.

In the MLS, Apple has also chosen a league where the fan base has an average age of 39.6 years, making it the youngest pro-sports fan base in North America, according to an article from Sportico.

In addition, unlike TV and movies, which can quickly decline in viewership, sports fans are likely to stick around as long as the content stays on the platform. Of course, when it comes to football (or soccer to our American friends), the English Premier League is the star of the show, but the MLS is growing.

Also Read: Three Day Trading Strategies for Apple Stocks

Sports Streaming is On the Rise

Statista says approximately 57.5 million viewers in the US watched digital live sports content at least once per month in 2021. It is projected to rise to over 90 million by 2025.

Meanwhile, a study from Graybo in 2021 says almost 80% of fans globally would be prepared to switch to streaming services for live sports, while 45% of sports fans currently pay for streaming services.

The increase and projected rise is no surprise, given the shift in how consumers watch content over the past few years.

However, there has also been a significant rise in live sports streaming services, meaning the competition is high. ESPN+, DAZN, FuboTV, Peacock, and Amazon Prime Video are just some of the available sports streaming apps, meaning Apple is entering a competitive market.

Even so, there is not yet a stand-out name. Apple’s deal with the MLS is positive as it has global rights, meaning there will be no “local blackouts or restrictions.” However, when it comes to sports and global rights, that can be a sticking point. For example, DAZN, a sports streaming app with a heavy boxing focus in the US and UK, backed out of a recent fight deal as they could not obtain the streaming rights in Australia.

But, if Apple can attain global rights to the sports it covers (assuming it will invest more into live sports streaming as Ives suggested), as it has with the MLS, then it could quickly become a leading player. However, that is easier said than done.

Bottom Line

The MLB and MLS deals look to be just the start of a more significant move into live sports streaming for Apple TV+. It is one that comes with challenges, but given the age demographic of the MLS and the global rights, it could be the ideal starting point. With Apple TV+ seemingly struggling to gain momentum on the back of its successful Ted Lasso show, due to a lack of other popular content, the focus on live sports streaming could be just what it needs.