MLS Season Pass, which debuts Feb. 1, marks Apple’s first major push into the $68 billion US TV ad market. The company reached a 10-year deal last year to stream the men’s professional soccer league, which aired previously on ESPN, Fox and Univision, in a deal worth at least $250 million annually. Fans can buy MLS Season Pass for $15 a month, or $99 per season, through the Apple TV app.
Apple’s sports ambitions have been growing. Last year, the company streamed Major League Baseball on Friday nights, but MLB sold the ads to those games. For MLS, Apple assembled its own sales team, led by Todd Teresi, the company’s vice president of advertising platforms, and has spent weeks meeting with ad buyers about sponsorships.
Apple didn’t respond to requests for comment. Fox Corp. is also airing some MLS games this year.
MLS has not been a particularly big draw on television. Its regular season audience on ABC and ESPN averaged 343,000 viewers per game last year. But live sports, especially soccer, have been attracting new subscribers to streaming services.
Apple has been selling three MLS sponsorship packages. The most expensive, called “Gold,” costs about $4 million per season and includes the playoffs and integrations, like sponsoring a “Player of the Match,” the people said. Less expensive packages, called “Silver” and “Bronze,” cost about $3 million and $1.5 million per season.
The company has told media buyers that it would allow ads from categories such as credit cards, alcohol and car rentals, one person said. It’s not unusual for a tech giant to be selective about who can advertise on its platform. Amazon.com, for example, wasn’t accepting commercials from beer companies during Thursday Night Football this past season.