Live events and professional sports were meant to be the preserve of broadcasters — no longer. The agreement announced yesterday between Apple and Major League Soccer (MLS), which will lead to the broadcasting of North American league matches on the Apple TV application, confirms the tech giants’ hunger for these two lucrative traditional media outlets.
The deal is a big deal: The computer giant will pay $250 million (about $323 million Canadian dollars) annually to MLS starting in 2023, for a period of ten years, to exclude all regular games, playoffs and most games played by its players. teams in a number of other leagues. Added to this amount is a portion of the subscription fees Apple customers pay to access MLS content on their platforms.
This is also a big data business. Digital platforms such as Apple’s, but also Netflix, Amazon and others are hungry for this information about the consumption habits and behavior of internet users. They know who is watching their video content and when it is viewed the most. Apple, which had unexpected success with its Apple TV+ service featuring the series Ted Lassoset in the world of English football probably has a good idea of when in the week MLS football will draw the most spectators.
Chance? MLS is considering aligning its teams’ schedules starting next season so that they usually play their games on Saturday nights, ideally from 7pm local time. A perhaps innocuous detail seen from the United States, but a headache for a Quebec broadcaster like TVA Sports, which was showing a Montreal Canadiens game at the time, a game that was likely to bring in more revenue.
A good time for CF Montreal
The transition will likely be difficult for TVA. The Montreal broadcaster stated with satisfaction after announcing this agreement between MLS and Apple that it “will damage the enthusiasm and visibility of football in Quebec”.
The transition won’t happen overnight, though, as MLS football will still be televised next year, assures in an interview with the Task CF Montreal President and CEO Gabriel Gervais. “Next year there will definitely be games on TV,” he said.
The big boss of the local team in MLS indicates that it is only necessary to find the right broadcaster as the contract has to be renegotiated. Bell (owner of the RDS station) and TVA would both be interested.
Unsurprisingly, CF Montreal management is delighted with the announcement of the MLS. “I absolutely love it as an agreement,” said Gabriel Gervais. “We can now say at CF Montreal that we count Apple among our partners. It is the largest company on the stock exchange. †
A partner who has just highlighted the transition that has been taking place within the Football Club for several months: new name, new logos, new boss… new global digital channel. lark! “It is still the right time for this transition,” said Mr. Gervais. The CF is looking for young amateurs already accustomed to digital, at a time when the enthusiasm for sport will only increase, thanks in particular to the arrival of the World Cup in North American soil in 2026, a significant detail.
A strong trend
The agreement between Apple and the MLS isn’t the first of its kind, recalls Suzanne Lortie, a professor of strategy at the University of Quebec’s School of Media in Montreal. “There is a general trend within professional sports leagues and teams to reclaim their brand,” she says. “They want to become their own media, manage their brand themselves. †
The English Premier League has recently switched online channels and will be available from Canada via the FuboTV app instead of DAZN. Amazon and its Prime Video service recently got their hands on NFL football games. Netflix is also starting to take an interest in live events and, if it weren’t for professional sports, could at least watch the live broadcast of high-profile events. Netflix is also not far from F1 with its popular series Formula 1. Drivers of their fate †Formula 1: Drive to survive†
In North America, the football market is currently underused by the traditional media, adds Suzanne Lortie. Football fans are younger and more connected than hockey or American football fans. “Football is a matter of… stream she adds.
Seeing foreign digital giants tackling this lucrative niche will further weaken Canada’s media ecosystem, Suzanne Lortie believes. According to her, we will see more and more sports events exclusively for online broadcasting, all sports combined. Digital platforms will collect audience data and better target their ads.
Such an agreement could have an unexpected political impact. Until now, the federal government’s Bill C-11 has presented itself as a means of preserving Canadian culture, be it in music, television or film. It will likely be necessary to question the place of sports broadcasting in this equation, the Montreal college professor concludes.