By Jim Williams
WASHINGTON — With the world watching Apple TV+ and Major League Soccer have begun their historic ten-year deal that this season alone will produce over 900 events. Apple-TV+ and the MLS dream of the league to showcase their brand of soccer to fans from New York and Los Angeles to Tokyo and London.
It is great to see a United States-based professional sports league be forward-thinking enough to trust streaming and Apple TV+ should be commended on its commitment to world-class production. Apple TV+ did not go on the cheap here they are offering World Cup quality broadcasts with multilingual feeds in English, Spanish or French plus if you like to watch their feed with your local radio broadcasters that is also a cool option.
So far things have been nearly perfect from a broadcast angle as Apple TV+, and the MLS spared no expense in having two of the best names in international television production companies IMG and NEP take care of the streaming broadcasts, and they were rewarded with consistent network quality coverage.
Besides the production the studio shows and the on air talent really is top-notch. They have an outstanding group of on-air talent calling the games.
There will be more bells and whistles to come as the year progresses but for the first week and half the weekend fans have been pleased. They have embraced the concept of direct to consumer sports and that is actually good for all involved.
For those who aren’t aware of all you will get from the MLS Season Pass on Apple-TV+ here are a few highlights plus some of the key people who are behind the scenes of one of the biggest and most ambitious sports and streaming video projects ever attempted by anyone.
MLS Season Pass will feature every match of the regular season, Audi MLS Cup Playoffs, and Leagues Cup1 all in one place, with consistent match times and no blackouts — a first in live sports broadcasting. It will also feature pregame shows, a whip-around show that will provide live look-ins from every match and feature every goal, penalty kick, and big save, as well as analysis and discussion from all the key moments, and a post game wrap-up to close each night.
All matches will feature commentary in either English or Spanish, while matches involving Canadian teams will also offer commentary in French. Pregame shows and the post game wrap-up will be available in English and Spanish. Fans in the US and Canada will also have the option to select their home team’s radio for broadcast audio on the Apple TV app where available.
“For the first time in the history of sports, fans will be able to access everything from a major professional sports league in one place,” said Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Services. “It’s a dream come true for MLS fans, soccer fans, and anyone who loves sports. No fragmentation, no frustration — just the flexibility to sign up for one convenient service that gives you everything MLS, anywhere and anytime you want to watch.”
Gary Stevenson, Major League Soccer’s deputy commissioner and president of MLS Business Ventures, said: “MLS Season Pass is a global project that required assembling a team of the most talented and accomplished leaders in every aspect of the broadcasting industry from all over the world.
“Our focus, with our partner Apple, is delivering an exceptional level of quality and storytelling that entertains and engages MLS’s passionate fans, improves their experience, and engages new fans through the reach of Apple and MLS Season Pass.”
Led by Global President of Broadcast Services Mike Werteen, NEP will provide MLS everything it needs to support the new platform through a streamlined, sophisticated workflow – from capturing live action on the field to distributing fan-ready content, anywhere in the world. As the leading media technology partner for content creators worldwide, delivering over 50,000 broadcast and live events across the globe each year, our teams are combining decades of experience with existing and new infrastructure and technologies, including world-class resources in Miami, New York, LA and Dallas.
“MLS has always had a clear vision for the fan experience they wanted to create, and it’s been such an honor to work with them and the team at Apple to build a technical solution to bring MLS Season Pass to life,” says Werteen. “Utilizing NEP’s connected platform, we bring six locations together to deliver every MLS game, allowing for specialized feeds and studio integration for a complete capture-to-distribution solution. There are up to 100+ feeds each game day routing through our data centers, production hubs, and studio facilities. I’m proud of our team’s ingenuity in taking something very complex and building an elegant solution that makes it all seem easy. That’s no small feat.”
Barney Francis, IMG Productions’ executive vice president and head of the global production, said: “We are excited to be part of this transformative new partnership between MLS and Apple, and we look forward to bringing the highest level of innovation to their live coverage for fans globally.
“Being chosen for this large-scale production is a testament to our industry-leading experience, expertise, and excellence in producing live soccer matches for audiences around the world. It also marks an important milestone in the global expansion of IMG’s production business with the launch of our new base in North America.”
Finally, soccer fans of the MLS are getting the consistent network quality they have deserved for years with a streaming service and a league willing to bet on the future. This is no knock on ESPN, Fox, or the coverage provided by regional sports networks but the consistency of broadcasts done by the combo of IMG and NEP are next level which has to make both Apple TV+ and the MLS brass happy.
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