Today we’re stepping into a new era for MLS broadcasts with this morning’s launch of MLS Season Pass on Apple TV.
After a couple of years of ESPN+ local blackouts, and the days when few people were able to watch FC Dallas on local TV as Time Warner Cable (now Spectrum) aired games on its own sports network at an archaic resolution, the league-wide deal with Apple promises no local blackouts and a host of enhancements to FC Dallas’ and MLS’ presentation.
Apple TV will bring games from MLS, and the Leagues Cup to fans in over 100 countries, as well as select content from MLS NEXT and MLS NEXT Pro (Please, no AI camera at Choctaw Stadium!) in a format that’s familiar to all of us in the streaming age.
As part of the presentation on Apple TV, additional content will include an MLS review show, a look back at past greats and historic matches, and club-specific content including The Ritual (a show on supporter culture at MLS clubs), club and player profiles, as well as drone tours of MLS stadiums. There’s also a show on players outside of the game called Beyond the Pitch which starts with our very own Sebastian Lletget.
In addition to live game coverage, there will also be a whip-around show in the style of Peacock’s Goal Rush or NFL RedZone to show immediate highlights of goals and big moments.
Housed within the Apple TV app, navigation is similar to Apple TV+, ESPN+, Hulu, or any other streaming service with tile-based navigation.
Users will be able to add FC Dallas in the My Sports tab of the Apple TV app. As well as FC Dallas games being pushed to the front of the queue, notifications for kick-off and live play-by-play can be sent to other Apple devices.
The app will also be available on Apple TV, iOS and macOS devices, most smart TVs, Roku and Fire TV players, both current and previous generation XBOX and PlayStation, as well as Android TV devices.
There is also a web player at tv.apple.com, which will have to suffice for us Android and Windows users looking for a portable version.
Subscribing to MLS Season Pass will cost $14.99 per month during the season or $99 per season, while Apple TV+ subscribers can sign up at a discounted rate of $12.99 per month or $79 per season. Through Family Sharing, up to six people can share the subscription using their own Apple ID.
Season ticket holders should have been sent an email this morning with details on redeeming one free subscription per account.
It’s a hefty price compared to Peacock for the Premier League, but it does line up with what MLS Live and MLS Direct Kick used to cost.
At the other end of the scale, in order to watch Luton Town on EFL iFollow, I have to pay $185 for a full season with certain games on ESPN+, while anyone wanting to stream new-found darlings Wrexham would spend $98.51 before tax for the remaining half-season of the Vanarama National League’s streaming platform.
Around six games per week will be made available for free, and the on-demand content will be available for free before the season starts on February 25. Additional games will be made available for Apple TV+ subscribers at no additional cost. Fox will also air 34 regular season and eight playoff games on TV.
Subscribing is the usual quick way for anyone used to the Apple environment with the charge being sent to whichever payment method is linked to your account after just two clicks to select the package of your choice.
One big question has been how to maintain the consistency of Dallas’ revered voices. Mark Followill was announced as a play-by-play announcer for Apple TV, and while no confirmation was given, there has been some implication that broadcasters would be paired with the teams they are most familiar with.
MLS Season Pass will include a local audio option, accessed as alternate audio in the same vain as selecting an alternate language in the Apple TV app. So fingers crossed for Steve Davis and Owen Newkirk if Followill isn’t on an FC Dallas broadcast!
I love the new Apple TV deal. It’s always been so frustrating as a fan to buy streaming services that had local blackouts in effect. FCD has done a good job streaming on their website these past two or three seasons but it’s cool to be able to watch all the games on Wednesday nights and Saturday without having to search for the game on Fubo, ESPN, and Univision.
The thing I like about this deal is that it gives MLS an exclusive, known brand in the streaming world. It was easily buried on ESPN+, so getting the full attention and creative energy of Apple should help. The confusion around the details of what is/is not included may be a bit of a deterrent for some, but hopefully it doesn’t tank the whole thing.