Apple and MLS have both largely kept quiet on subscription and viewership information about MLS Season Pass in its debut season, but on Monday, we learned some details.
Per the Sports Business Journal, MLS Season Pass is “approaching 1 million subscribers” globally, including the access given to season ticket holders. At the beginning of June, SBJ’s source said the service had 700,000 subscribers, meaning there has been a substantial increase over the last month and a half due to Lionel Messi’s jump to Inter Miami.
Interestingly, one reason specific information about MLS Season Pass has been hard to come by is that Apple is requiring executives to sign non-disclosure agreements in order to see the data.
It’s impossible to truly evaluate any of those claims. Apple has a well-earned reputation as one of the most secretive companies in the world. The number of MLS Season Pass subscribers is a closely guarded secret. Viewership figures for individual games are never shared publicly. Multiple high-level club business executives said they were required by to sign non-disclosure agreements in order to see any numbers pertaining to the number of MLS Season Pass subscribers.
Team executives privately have expressed frustration about being kept in the dark. One owner described a level of frustration among his team officials over the lack of transparency in who is watching their games, especially compared to past years when teams had viewership statistics down to the quarter-hour for their local and national games.
Last month, a report indicated that Season Pass was close to the “required subscription threshold that kick-starts an agreement for the company to share subscription revenue with MLS,” though that number was not provided.
Some in MLS circles are frustrated with the lack of information because of difficulties in attracting local sponsors compared to national or global sponsors.
This is another point where team executives privately are expressing some frustrations over specifics into who, exactly, is a Season Pass subscriber. The large number of sign-ups is good for big sponsors like Adidas. Adding subscribers in Argentina may help Apple and big MLS sponsors like Adidas, but it doesn’t do much for teams that try to sign up local sponsors.
It’s understandable that Apple doesn’t want subscriber information leaking everywhere. At the same time, there are plenty of people within the league that need that data in order to do their jobs properly. If I work for a club and am attempting to sell a sponsorship to a local company, how can I do my job without accurate subscription information or with the correct information and a signed NDA?
Assuming the raw subscription numbers reported are accurate, things seem to be going pretty well for MLS during its first season with Apple. But unless either party decides to start touting specifics, we’ll mostly be left in the dark.