One of the bonuses for both MLS and Apple TV having an exclusive streaming deal is that they’re not forced to tell us how it’s going. Or they can decide what they want to say. Without usual ratings to gauge how the revolutionary deal is fairing, we’re usually left guessing. There were whispers that Apple may have already been looking for their opt-out in the spring. But the arrival of Lionel Messi would apparently change all that, according to the Wall Street Journal via Antenna.
According to the story, in June MLS and Apple had 37,000 subscribers for MLS Season Pass. Come July, that number is 288,000. Now MLS wasn’t charging full price by that point in the season as already half the league games were played and the Leagues Cup was about to start. But that 200,000+ jump in subscribers is obviously worth hundreds of millions of dollars to the league and to Apple. Antenna’s data does not include international subscribers, and we can bet that there were a fair few from Messi’s home Argentina alone.
How much it’s worth exactly is hard to know. The league is due a minimum of $250 million per year from Apple. But once certain benchmarks are reached, which aren’t publicly known, Apple and MLS split revenues. That split isn’t known either, but that $250 million mark was basically reached with the jump in subscriptions from Messi’s signing. Needless to say, the league can expect more than the minimum thanks to No. 10 landing in Miami.
Apple will be smiling for its own reasons, as it has seen subscriptions purely to its service increase in July too, by nearly 100,000. Which is the idea of the whole thing, that people will come for the soccer and stay for the Jon Hamm and Jennifer Aniston. While the deal wasn’t working before if these numbers are the truth, Apple lost subscribers between April and the end of June, and the arrival of just one player has turned the fortunes of both.
While Messi has torn apart MLS in both his three league games and throughout their Leagues Cup run, as Matthew Doyle points out here, Messi’s arrival has put a stark light on where MLS stands amongst the world’s leagues. And it’s pretty good! In terms of national team call-ups, the league is miles ahead of where it was eight years ago. The country with the most players at the World Cup outside of the Big 5 European leagues was…MLS. The league is eighth in expenditure in transfers the past four years, ahead of countries like Holland, Brazil, Argentina, and Mexico. There are other metrics Doyle goes on to point out that the domestic league might be in better shape than a lot of us think.
The test, of course, will be to see whether Messi Mania carries over into next season. There won’t be a World Cup win to boost the profile. Miami will be a better team overall. They’re still way outside the playoff picture, but people will be signing up for a full season at $75 or more than the cut rate they got for a half-season of the Argentine maestro. MLS likely won’t have Messi in the playoffs to create momentum into next season either…unless they bend the rules between now and the end of the season and let’s not rule that one out.
Perhaps when this deal was negotiated, both the league and Apple had a pretty strong inkling that Messi would be coming. Perhaps they just caught a Hail Mary that completely dusts Doug Flutie’s. Either way, they’re both pretty happy where things are right now.
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Original source here
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