Apple has said it is considering making a bid for the English football streaming rights to Apple TV+
Apple is considering bidding for the streaming rights to a range of English football matches, according to people familiar with the situation, a move that would bolster its sporting ambitions and increase competition with Amazon’s Prime Video.
The rights under consideration would allow Apple to broadcast Premier League games in the UK, as well as lower league games hosted by the English Football League, said two of the people, who asked not to be identified because the deliberations are private.
Such a move would build on Apple’s recent expansion into live sports in the United States, where it struck a 10-year, $2.5 billion (roughly Rs. 20,600 crore) deal with the Major. League Soccer to stream games on its TV+ platform. The company also airs Major League Baseball on Friday nights. And one of the streaming service’s most popular TV series, Ted Lasso, follows a fictional Premier League team coached by an American.
Pushing into English football would pit Apple against established media companies such as Comcast’s Sky and Warner Bros. Discovery, who agreed to a joint venture with BT Sport last year. It could also throw down the gauntlet with Amazon, which has become a force in European football streaming.
An Apple spokesperson declined to comment. The English Premier League declined to say whether Apple had shown any interest in bidding for its next round of rights. An EFL spokesman, meanwhile, said the league is currently considering potential bidders for its next rights sale.
Apple has enlisted sports media veterans Jim DeLorenzo and Frank Uddo in building its streaming platform, and they will “know the value that international soccer can bring to the system,” said Peter Hutton, who was previously head of media partnerships at Meta Platforms Inc. .
Offering the games may be a more effective way to attract overseas viewers than other fare, he said.
“Apple will be looking closely at its early data on MLS and MLB experiences, but the unique ability of sports to change the behavior of a predefined audience means it’s a safer bet than entertainment content for growing the international market for ‘Apple TV,’ said Hutton, who is also the former boss of the Eurosport network.
The EFL is offering the rights to seasons from 2024. The Premier League have struck a deal with Sky, BT Sport and Amazon for live matches to run throughout the 2024-25 season. The Premier League has sold the domestic rights from 2022 to 2025 for $6.3 billion (around Rs. 51,800 crore).
Amazon quickly expanded its sports streaming franchise. As well as winning the Premier League rights in the UK, it broadcasts the US Open tennis tournament in the UK and Ireland, as well as the Champions League tournament in the UK, Italy and in Germany. Amazon also streams NFL games on Thursday nights for Prime subscribers.
Apple launched its TV+ streaming service in 2019 and has built a platform known for its flashy series with big stars. But the company hasn’t been as ambitious as Netflix Inc. and Walt Disney Co. vying for subscribers. Many of its users watch TV+ for free through trials that come with the purchase of other Apple products.
Nor has Apple invested much in a catalog of programming, a key way for Netflix to satisfy its more than 230 million subscribers.
With Sport, Apple started out just as measured, but gradually became more aggressive. The Cupertino, Calif.-based company sealed its deal with baseball a year ago, agreeing to stream Friday night games for free. This season, the company began requiring subscriptions to watch coverage.
Apple began broadcasting MLS games last month and is using the deal to expand into the TV advertising market. The move is part of a larger push by the iPhone maker to make money from ads.
© 2023 Bloomberg LP
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