In the past, the MLS was largely viewed as a late endeavour for ageing European footballers, and a gateway to the American audience. Even now, the US-based league is far from being held in the same regard as Europe’s Top Five, but it continues to take significant steps in order to develop a better product.
Now seen as a budding competition packed with exciting young talent, some even attracting the interest of European Heavyweights, MLS is on an upward trajectory.
The League recently took a huge step forward in facilitating its growth, as it penned a historic $2.5bn deal with Apple TV. By selling off all of its global media rights to the tech giant, MLS becomes the first major American Sports League to do so.
Naturally, the move will bring changes of seismic proportions to the product, while further details will gradually be ironed out, here are some upcoming features which have been confirmed.
Thoroughly Produced Product –
Prior to the mega-deal, rights for the league were spread amongst linear TV networks, who then produced broadcasts as they saw fit. Without a standard formula, these broadcasts were often laughably poor, fortunately, the brand new deal is all set to address that.
Influenced by the template of many other sports leagues, future MLS broadcasts will include pre/post-match shows, highlights, a rundown show etc. A fleshed-out product is more likely to attract new audiences, or retain existing ones, especially more so than a standard broadcast.
Exclusive Content for subscribers –
Being a digital media platform Apple TV already boasts a strong lineup of content, alongside a vast audience. Adding sports media to its lineup would not only boost those figures but also give the League’s popularity a major push.
We’ve already seen this model work for Formula 1, as Netflix’s ‘Drive to Survive’ led to newer audiences being drawn to the motorsport.
Through Reality TV shows, Docuseries, and Behind-The-Scenes content being centred around the league, the MLS could follow suit. And by the looks of it, Apple will look to do just that, adding another bonus for subscribers.
Neat Surprise for Season Ticket Holders-
The deal will reward Season Ticket Holders by providing the upcoming subscription service for free, allowing them to catch any MLS, Liga MX, MLS NEXT Pro, or MLS NEXT game at no additional cost. Aside from making Season Tickets an attractive prospect, the move will certainly build some goodwill with the fans.
No Geo-Blocking or Blackout Restrictions –
Under Apple TV, MLS broadcasts will be breaking away from what has become the norm for other major American Leagues.
As per reports, there will be no Geo-Blocking, which is essentially used to restrict access to certain content online based on the user’s geographical location.
For MLS fans, this provides further access to the product.
Additionally, Blackout Restrictions are all set to be eliminated as well, letting fans watch any game, in any market. For the uninitiated, Blackout restrictions are location-specific, and they block a viewer’s ability to watch certain games of certain teams online. This leads to fans tuning into local broadcasters in order to catch games, and hence promotes local channels.
By eliminating Blackout Restrictions, convenience for fans will certainly increase. However, local channels and broadcasters may end up taking a hit.
The deals look to usher in a brand new era for Major League Soccer, and the early signs are looking positive.