One player is responsible for the surge in Apple's MLS Season Pass subscriber count

One player is responsible for the surge in Apple's MLS Season Pass subscriber count
This has been quite a year for South Florida sports fans with the Miami Heat and Florida Panthers both making the finals in their respective leagues (NBA, NHL), the MLB Miami Marlins battling for a playoff spot, and the current top soccer star in the world, Lionel Messi, playing for Major League Soccer's Inter Miami squad. The club hasn't lost a game since the superstar joined the team and Inter Miami even won the League Cup which is an in-season competition between MLS and Mexico's Liga MX.

Messi's move to Major League Soccer brings in a huge number of new U.S. MLS Season Pass subscribers for Apple

As it turns out, Messimania is also impacting Apple. As we noted earlier in the year after Messi signed with Inter Miami, we told you why Apple was among the signing's big winners. The tech giant has the streaming rights to MLS for the next 10 years. The Wall Street Journal notes that Apple added more than 110,000 new MLS Season Pass U.S. subscribers on July 21, the day that Messi debuted with Inter Miami. The day before, it signed up 6,143 U.S. subscribers for the MLS Season Pass according to analytics firm Antenna.

Jonathan Carson, chief executive of Antenna, said, "There is only one Lionel Messi, so this was a very big moment for the sport in this country. Sports are definitely star-driven but that has never before translated into an enormous subscriber bump." Apple CEO Tim Cook was compelled to mention Messi's signing with Inter Miami during the company's latest earnings call. "We are beating our expectation in terms of subscribers, and the fact that Messi went to Inter Miami helped us out there a bit," Cook said.

What makes this story more appealing is how Messi has performed as advertised the moment his Inter Miami and MLS career started. In 11 games with Inter Miami, Messi has tallied 11 goals and eight assists. Some will point out that the competition certainly isn't up to the international levels that Messi has competed at, but none of this matters to the Apple bean counters.

Apple charges $12.99 per month for its MLS Season Pass or $25 for the season to those who also subscribe to Apple TV+. Those who aren't Apple TV+ subscribers must pay $14.99 per month or $29 per season. Season ticket holders to any MLS club received a free MLS Season Pass subscription this year. The data shows that nearly half of the MLS Season Pass subscribers who signed up between February and July had Apple TV+ subscriptions indicating that Major League Soccer has been garnering support from Apple device owners.

Compared to NFL streaming costs, Apple is getting a bargain for the rights to MLS

And Apple was surely happy to see that 15% of those who signed up for the Season Pass package from February to July also signed up for TV+. Perhaps some of the excitement around the sport shown by Apple device owners has to do with the very popular Apple TV+ original series Ted Lasso starring Jason Sudeikis as the titular character. Lasso is an American football coach hired to coach a soccer club in England even though he knows nothing about the sport.

The economics of streaming Major League sports is getting out of hand and explains how some owners can afford to pay their players extremely rich contracts. YouTube's Sunday Ticket for NFL contests cost Google $14 billion for a seven-year deal. Amazon is paying the NFL $1.2 billion a season for 11 years of Thursday Night Football streams. Because soccer is not considered one of the four major U.S. team sports, Apple was able to lock up 10 years of MLS for a price of $2.5 billion.

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The history of U.S. soccer shows that the import of world-caliber players such as Pele, Franz Beckenbauer, and David Beckham resulted in short-lived boosts in interest by U.S. sports fans only to see interest wane when the players left their U.S. teams. Messi's contract with Inter Miami ends in 2025 and Apple is hoping that Messi can create more U.S. soccer fans who will watch the sport for the rest of their lives.

By the way, if you are a Lionel Messi fan, a Lionel Ritchie fan, or a fan of Inter Miami, you can install the Inter Miami app by tapping on this link for iOS and pressing on this link for Android.
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