When Major League Soccer signed a global 10-year deal with Apple this summer (beginning in 2023), there was a lot of talk about what that might mean for the league on linear TV. Apple obtained the full rights for all matches (which will be available for $14.99 a month or $99 a year in the U.S.), but there was discussion of simulcasts on linear networks right from the start, including existing U.S. partners ESPN and Fox (English) and Univision (Spanish) and existing Canadian partners TSN (English) and RDS (French). On Tuesday, Sports Business Journal’s Alex Silverman reported on the details of those simulcasts, which will involve just Fox and Fox Deportes in the U.S. for regular MLS matches, Univision in the U.S. for the expanded Leagues Cup, and then TSN and RDS in Canada:
New: @FOXSports will be the linear TV home of @MLS under a new 4-year deal that will see its networks air about a game a week, plus playoffs and MLS Cup. @Univision will join Fox in airing Leagues Cup matches. These deals supplement the new @Apple service. https://t.co/0QmWRkwOzb
— Alex M. Silverman?⚽️ (@AlexMSilverman) December 13, 2022
Here’s more from Silverman’s piece:
The combination of what we’re being able to do with Apple and then these corresponding agreements on linear — when you put all that together this is definitely the broadest exposure we’ve ever been able to provide for fans,” MLS President and Deputy Commissioner Gary Stevenson told SBJ.
Beginning in 2023, Fox and FS1 will combine to air 34 regular-season matches a year, 15 of which will air on the flagship broadcast channel, along with eight playoff matches and MLS Cup. All of those matches will be simulcast in Spanish on Fox Deportes. FS1 will also air 16 matches per season from the early rounds of Leagues Cup.
…Beginning this summer, Univision, UniMás and TUDN will air a total of 21 Leagues Cup matches a year, including the final. The league’s Spanish-language website will also live on TelevisaUnivision’s platform for the duration of the agreement.
…Stevenson said that the decision to partner solely with Fox for non-Leagues Cup matches was based primarily on the league’s effort to create a more fan-friendly schedule. Beginning in 2023, most MLS matches will begin at 7:30pm local time on Saturday nights, with some matches taking place on Wednesday nights. Occasional matches will be held on Saturday or Sunday afternoons. “What we discovered is it was easier for us to do an agreement with one partner because of all the moving parts on schedule,” Stevenson said. “Fox was the perfect complement.”
It’s notable that this sees the end of MLS‘ relationship with ESPN, though. ESPN had been a MLS broadcaster since the league’s 1996 debut. So MLS joins the Big Ten in being a long-time ESPN property that will no longer air there beginning in 2023.
It’s also worth mentioning that this is an unusual broadcasting deal, where these linear networks will be simulcasting rather than originating the content. MLS will be producing these broadcasts themselves for Apple. And none of the linear deals here have any exclusivity or streaming rights, and everything shown on linear will also be available in that MLS Season Pass product through Apple TV+.
But this deal does mean that quite a few MLS and Leagues Cup matches will still be on linear TV as well. And that adds to the ones that will be available for free on Apple’s platforms, and the ones that will be available to those who subscribe to AppleTV+ but not MLS Season Pass. So MLS is maintaining some distribution reach here even after their Apple deal.