Report: Soccer Drives Huge Streaming Sign-Up Numbers; Is Apple Due a Big User Bump?
Live sports are a big draw for just about any media platform. While Major League Soccer might not have the draw of the other professional sports leagues in the United States, soccer is perhaps the most beloved sport internationally, and can drive big engagement numbers for streaming services that carry it.
How big? A new report from the television research and analytics firm Antenna helps to shed some light on that question. The data from Antenna showed that Peacock — which held the Spanish-language rights to 2022 FIFA World Cup matches — was the biggest gainer in terms of new subscriber sign-ups during the global tournament. Of live TV streaming services, YouTube TV saw the biggest increase in terms of new users because of the event.
So what do these two streaming services have in common that set them apart from competitors? In a word, value. At $4.99 per month, Peacock is one of the cheapest subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) services available. Since the 2022 FIFA World Cup was broadcast on FOX and FS1 in the United States, and since FOX chose not to put live games on its free streaming service Tubi, Peacock was the only SVOD offering World Cup matches live in the United States.
Peacock also used a Black Friday sale in conjunction with its World Cup offerings to strike while the iron was hot. During Thanksgiving week, it offered a promotion in which customers could get a full year’s subscription for $0.99 per month. The deal, in concert with Peacock’s World Cup coverage, made the service one of the most downloaded apps in the world in November 2022.
YouTube TV is also a good bargain, at least compared to its competitors in the live TV streaming game. Starting at $64.99 per month, YouTube TV was the cheapest service offering both FOX and FS1 in every market in the U.S. YouTube TV also offers a 4K add-on, making it the only service other than fuboTV to stream World Cup matches in ultra-high-definition, which also helps explain why it saw 1.5 times as many signups during the tournament as it does on average.
So is Apple the next company due to benefit from the addition of more soccer? Apple recently launched MLS Season Pass on Apple TV, which allows users to watch every MLS game of the season for $14.99 per month or $99 per year.
Apple can probably expect a bump, but maybe not to the levels that Peacock saw during the World Cup. For one thing, MLS games will draw far fewer viewers in general than the prestigious, global FIFA tournament. For another reason, Apple has gone to great lengths to ensure that MLS Season Pass remains a separate, standalone entity from its entertainment streaming service Apple TV+. Apple TV+ users do get a special discounted rate on MLS Season Pass, but a more integrated bundling option might allow Apple to bring more users to both services.
There’s no denying that Apple will benefit as a company from holding the streaming rights to every MLS game for the next 10 years, especially given the new numbers from Antenna. But giving new users a way to sign up for MLS Season Pass and Apple TV+ together at a discounted rate would likely help the company maximize its earnings from the deal with MLS.
MLS Season Pass
MLS Season Pass will have every match of the MLS regular season, Audi 2023 MLS Cup Playoffs, and Leagues Cup — all in one place and with no blackouts. The service launches February 1, 2023.
The majority of games in the 2023 season will be played on Saturdays and select Wednesdays, with 7:30 p.m. local start times. To complement the action, MLS Season Pass will offer a five-hour live whip-around show, capturing all of the key moments from every match from the start of the Eastern Conference games through the final whistle of the Western Conference games (7:30 p.m. ET-12:30 a.m. ET).
Subscription prices are lower for Apple TV+ subscribers.