Beware the Attack Basset
Yes, the Thursday night game is that important.It would be easier for Amazon to make an arrangement for one game per week than for several overlapping Sunday games but is the Thursday night game that important? I believe the decision could go either way for both offerings.
So this news about a new MLS-specific direct-to-consumer streaming service, offered by Apple, is a great illustration of the thesis I've repeatedly laid out about the future of sports broadcasting. To recap, I think we're going to see the vast majority of popular sports' regular season games be sold through services dedicated to a particular sport/league/team. This may be done directly by the owner of the league/team or, as in this case, through a powerful third party such as Apple to help improve the service's distribution/reach. This kind of service is intended to reach serious fans of that particular sport/league/team.This might have some relevance here, since about 1/3 of MLS owners are also NFL owners. It also goes to Apple going big on sports. Supposedly $2.5 billion for 10 years.
It’s looking like Apple is getting streaming right for everything… in market, out of market and international.I do not understand this deal at all. The $$ just do not make sense. This is the whole rights deal, yes, but this is a league that is getting 0.3 or so on broadcast TV and a third of that on "cable" channels. I do not have access to what the teams get on local TV and RSNs, but I cannot imagine its much. The number of subscribers to the "Direct Kick" out of market package is a handful.
From the latest I'm reading, it sounds like a subscription to Apple's MLS service will not require a subscription to Apple TV+, the same as is true of existing Apple TV Channels. But it also sounds like that service will include access to all MLS matches, including whichever ones Apple decides to also stream as part of Apple TV+. This is a surprisingly pro-consumer move, IMO. I'd have expected any specific match to be featured only on one service or the other. Or perhaps for the MLS service to be an add-on requiring Apple TV+, making the distinction unimportant to those buying the MLS service.And this appears to be exactly what will happen here. To see most MLS matches, you'll need to specifically pay for the forthcoming Apple-branded MLS service, which will be offered inside the Apple TV app. (My guess is that it will simply be another of the so-called a la carte "Apple TV Channels," which currently include the likes of Showtime, Cinemax, AMC+, PBS Living, BritBox, etc.) But select MLS matches will be offered as part of the main Apple TV+ service, which of course mainly features a variety of Apple Original series like Ted Lasso and Severance as well as various original feature films, documentaries, kids' shows, plus other select live sports like Friday Night MLB.
Yes, OTT/DTC sports rights are a separate thing versus traditional TV (broadcast/cable) rights. In some cases, they're sold together, although in this new case with MLS, they're being sold separately. The recent new decade-long deal the NFL struck with various distributors -- Paramount/CBS, NBCUniversal, Disney/ESPN, Fox, Amazon -- include both. In the case of Amazon, it appears that they won't exercise the traditional rights, just the OTT/DTC rights.It’s looking like Apple is getting streaming right for everything… in market, out of market and international.
The league appears to still be able to sell linear broadcast rights, and expects to have ESPN and Univision broadcast national games. Local rights for teams is a mixed bag… some OTA, some RSN, some none, but most teams make little off local rights.
Now will any teams want to get into the MIX (Say X team wants to be able to sell there own games out of market on there own?)Meanwhile, Apple has been subpoenaed in the anti-trust lawsuit involving DirecTV and the NFL even though they do not currently even own the rights to any NFL games.
Maybe someone who is knowledgeable in the law can explain why this subpoena is even valid and why it shouldn't be tossed by the judge.
Now how much can the league take away from the team's with out running in to anti-trust issues or Sherman Act issues ?So this news about a new MLS-specific direct-to-consumer streaming service, offered by Apple, is a great illustration of the thesis I've repeatedly laid out about the future of sports broadcasting. To recap, I think we're going to see the vast majority of popular sports' regular season games be sold through services dedicated to a particular sport/league/team. This may be done directly by the owner of the league/team or, as in this case, through a powerful third party such as Apple to help improve the service's distribution/reach. This kind of service is intended to reach serious fans of that particular sport/league/team.
The Supreme Court found in that decision that individual NFL teams are separate economic actors. But clearly the league can and does negotiate broadcast deals on behalf of all NFL teams, apparently with the legal consent of all the league's individual teams.Now how much can the league take away from the team's with out running in to anti-trust issues or Sherman Act issues ?
From an ownership standpoint, Major League Soccer is a strange beast. The league is a single entity and owns all of the teams. The league has investor/operators who operate the individual teams. The investor/operators perform from office tasks, hire coaching staff, and those types of activities. All players are under contract to the league, not the teams.With the much newer Major League Soccer, IDK. What we do know is that the MLS was able to pull off a historic, sweeping deal with Apple for a new DTC service that will include both in-market and out-of-market games with no blackouts. Really great for MLS fans. (Meanwhile, MLS will continue to sell traditional broadcast TV rights too, completely separate from the Apple deal.)
Another possibility just occurred to me: perhaps in the next few years we'll see Fox sell a Tubi Sports Premium subscription tier inside the otherwise free Tubi app that will be home to all of the live sports that Fox carries across their various channels: Fox, FS1, FS2, and Big 10 Network. Or, at least, all of the live sports for which they have the contractual rights to offer via a DTC OTT service. That certainly includes those Sunday NFL games and I would imagine at least some, probably most, of the other sports they air across those four networks. Last year Tubi launched a "Sports on Tubi" section in the free app but it's just low-value stuff like highlights, replays, talk, etc. Why not offer a paid upgrade tier to Sports on Tubi? And, while we're at it, why not also offer in-app sports betting?I guess it's possible that Fox could launch a little NFL-only subscription tier to Tubi. Maybe you'd have to buy the entire season, with the price dropping gradually as the season progresses? But it would be simpler, and probably more lucrative for Fox, and therefore just more plausible all the way around, if Fox just sold the OTT/DTC rights to their local NFL games to a deep-pocketed third party. Like Apple. Or Amazon. Or, who knows, maybe Disney/ESPN+.
This is what I was worried about. Although you don’t need an additional D* subscription in order to get it, I wonder how many people are going to subscribe to it if it’s still at a premium price?When the NFL signed contracts with CBS and Fox, the deals included language that mandates Sunday Ticket have a premium price so as not to pull too many eyeballs away from the local market Sunday afternoon games acquired by the broadcast networks, three of the people said.
That means any owner of Sunday Ticket rights won’t be able to significantly lower the price on the out-of-market package, which typically costs about $300 per year. It also prevents an existing streaming service, such as ESPN+, to simply add in Sunday Ticket at little or no extra cost to boost subscribers.
Isn’t this the problem, though? There is some indication based on DirecTV’s experience. As a premium product, that was about 2 million people. The product was available the past few years through streaming for people without line of sight for satellites.If someone is a fan, how likely are they to substitute the local faire?
There's nothing relatively low cost about what DIRECTV DBS satellite customers pay for service. Paying $1,200+ per year to have access to Sunday Ticket is a high bar.Relatively speaking, a DirecTV subscription was a relatively low cost of entry to be able to get Sunday Ticket… it was not much different than a comparable cable subscription, even with the fees. Let’s face it, cable has similar fees.