Photo by: Tareq Ismail
Being a soccer fan in Canada just became more expensive with MLS making the move from TSN and ESPN to Apple TV+ at the start of the 2023 MLS season. To watch games now, fans must have an Apple TV+ membership, which is $8.99 per month, and subscribe to the MLS season pass for $12.99 a month or $79.99 for the season.
In 2022, MLS saw a record attendance of more than 10 million, which blew the previous record of 8.6 million in 2019 out of the water. They also set a record in viewership on television with an over 13 per cent increase in viewership on American channels such as Fox and ESPN, while also seeing an 8 per cent increase in viewership in Canada.
With numbers soaring through the roof, it is easy to see why MLS made the move to Apple TV+, who outbid the likes of Amazon and Paramount for the rights to all games. The Apple and MLS deal came in around 250 million USD over 10 years, a huge jump from their previous deals with ESPN and TSN, which netted them approximately 9 million dollars annually.
But will the move to Apple TV+ hurt their viewership now that they are not on easy-to-access TV networks such as TSN and ESPN?
When it comes to hardcore MLS fans, it is safe to say that many will pay the subscription in order to watch that specific team play throughout the season.
But for more casual fans of the league, some may make the switch to more talented leagues such as the Premier League and Bundesliga, which are both on subscription services that cost relatively the same as Apple TV+. The MLS already has a relatively small fan base compared to these other leagues, which makes it challenging to justify the cost of the subscription fee for lower-quality soccer, especially when LaLiga – the Spanish league – is available on TSN.
The switch from regular programmed television to Apple TV+ could hurt MLS’ viewership, despite generating more revenue on the TV deal.