Thursday, June 20, 2024

Apple may strike a historic deal with FIFA—and give a major boost to its streaming service

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Apple is reportedly doubling down on live sports through a first-of-its-kind agreement with global soccer governing body FIFA that would give it the worldwide television rights for a new tournament. 

The TV deal could be announced as soon as this month, with the tournament set to be held in the U.S. next summer, reported the New York Times, citing three people familiar with the matter. 

The agreement with Apple would be unique for FIFA, which usually strikes deals with several TV providers in different countries for global tournaments such as the World Cup.

By contrast, the Apple deal may reportedly omit free-to-air-rights, which could make the tournament available to Apple TV+ subscribers only—a point that has raised concern among some FIFA senior executives, according to the Times

“As a general practice, FIFA does not confirm or deny commercial discussions,” a FIFA spokesperson told Fortune.

Apple struck a similarly exclusive 10-year deal to secure the streaming rights for Major League Soccer at a $2.5 billion price tag last year. The agreement, which Apple dubbed MLS Season Pass, was prescient for the tech company. Subscriptions to Apple TV+ jumped by more than 100,000 in one day, compared to around 6,000 the day before, after World Cup winner Lionel Messi played his first game with MLS Club Inter Miami CF in June, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Although Apple does not break out revenue for Apple TV+, the services business segment it belongs to netted the company $85.2 billion in net sales in 2023, up 9% from $78.1 billion the prior year, according to the company’s most recent 10K filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. 

The competition for live sports has heated up recently as streaming companies look to live sports to grow. Peacock streamed its third exclusive National Football League game in March and Amazon Prime just completed its second year of a $1 billion-per-season deal to stream the NFL’s Thursday Night Football programming. Apple has recently increased its interest in live sports deals as well.

The tech company is competing with other streamers such as Amazon Prime Video, Google’s YouTube, and Netflix to secure the rights to some NBA games, the Athletic reported Monday. Apple also struck a streaming rights deal with Major League baseball in 2022. 

The new World Cup-style tournament, which FIFA previously said would be called the Mundial de Clubes FIFA (although that name is reportedly under review), will include 32 teams. FIFA president Gianni Infantino has long pushed for the competition that would pit some of the world’s best soccer clubs against each other every four years. Powerhouse clubs such as FC Bayern Munich, Paris Saint-Germain FC, and Serie A champions Inter Milan are already qualified to participate, according to FIFA.

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