Apple and Major League Soccer (MLS) are racing against time to be ready for the season opener on February 25, 2023. And according to a new report, they’re already falling behind.
Apple and the MLS agreed to a $2.5 billion deal to show soccer games live via the Apple TV app earlier this year. That deal will need to turn into images on screens soon enough, but it’s thought that the hurdles are beginning to mount up.
According to a paywalled report by The Athletic seen by iMore, sources speaking with the outlet say that some technical issues are yet to be ironed out. That being said, one well-placed industry source does seem confident that everything will be in place from February.
However, even if Apple does manage to get everything ready for the big kick-off, The Athletic reports that the rapidly-shrinking timeframe could leave plenty of hiccups come the big day, with the quality of live broadcasts expected to be lower than hoped. At least initially, although things should improve as time goes on.
Even if there are problems, it isn’t clear whether anyone will notice. Previous MLS coverage partners “were lacking in production quality,” the report notes. “It’s possible that MLS and Apple’s product might present as perfectly fine, even while the two companies are busy working the initial kinks out.”
Another source speaking with The Athletic doesn’t seem too concerned, mainly because Apple is doing what it did with Apple TV+ — it’s throwing money at the problem. “Whenever challenges come up, they just keep throwing more resources at it,” the source told the outlet. “And those problems go away pretty darn quickly.”
There are still non-technical issues to resolve, though. Apple still has to say who will front its live games, although that issue could easily be solved with the right contracts in the right hands. But those expecting commentators to be specific to certain teams will be disappointed, at least initially.
“The plan for the beginning of the season is for most play-by-play talent and color commentators to work interchangeably,” the report says. “To start, there may be zero or a very limited number of set teams.”
We know that games will be called in both English and Spanish, with some also getting French language coverage.
Technical issues or not, it seems extremely unlikely that Apple won’t be ready to at least stream games come launch time. But there would seem to be a real possibility that those first few weeks will be rougher than some might like.
Once games stream, you’ll be able to watch on anything that has an Apple TV app, including game consoles, streaming sticks, and more. But the best Apple TV viewing experience will likely be via the Apple TV 4K.