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Apple In Talks For Major Sports Rights

Apple has moved to get themselves into a position in the sports streaming market with insiders revealing that they are in talks to get access to selective games played in a major code.

For Apple, Google and Amazon Australia is a strong market despite being small, with insiders in the USA telling ChannelNews, that it will be “inevitable” that they start bidding for live sports events locally such as Cricket, NRL, Tennis and AFL as the rights become available in the future.

Overnight it emerged that Apple is looking to bid for Major League Baseball games in the USA a move that could cost them billions.

Recently Amazon moved into the live sports market with a $1.37 billion dollar deal to air “Thursday Night Football,”.

If successful Apple the most valuable U.S. tech company will get a major content boost for its streaming service, Apple TV+.

On CNBC this morning experts were tipping that Google, Apple and Amazon will be among the bidders for sports rights globally going forward and that this will put pressure on local players.

In Australia ViacomCBS own Channel Ten and have recently launched a new streaming service Paramount +, this gives them the “perfect” opportunity to lock in both free to air and streaming rights.

In the USA NBC who own the Peacock network signed a $13 Billion dollar a year contract for Sunday Night NFL football rights on an 11-year contract.

Apple is currently in talks with Major League Baseball to acquire selective rights to games a move that allows them to test the response from Apple customers.

The rights aren’t exclusive, as the games can still be aired on regional sports networks (RSNs) for the teams that are playing.

Observers claim that for Apple it’s an important entry point and one that could see Apple move to bigger sports packages if this investment works out.

Lee Berke, CEO of LHB Sports, which advises the sports entertainment industry.

“When you’re looking to develop a content strategy on any media platform, one of the quickest ways to do it, and expensive by the way, is to add sports,” Berke said.

But Berke said a cash-rich tech company like Apple would “absolutely” pay for sports rights if they deliver or lock in consumers.

“Apple has the money to purchase a wide range of sports over and above the MLB package,” Berke said. “But to demonstrate they can do this properly; they have to work their way up the ladder.”

Berke likened Apple’s position to a situation another company faced a century ago.

In the early 1920s, electronics manufacturer RCA created radio sets. The company then purchased radio stations and, in 1926, created the National Broadcasting Co. NBC agreed with MLB to air the first World Series on the radio. (NBCUniversal is now the parent of NBC and CNBC.)

“RCA was trying to sell radio sets, and Apple is trying to sell headsets,” Berke said. “The same principle applies.”

Apple has a whole ecosystem that it can present to consumers, he said.

“You need to get in the game if you’re Apple,” Berke said. “If Apple is looking to increase usage of Apple TV+ but also looking to sell additional hardware – phones, watches, iPads – then sports provide you with a ready-made mass audience.”

The pandemic changed media consumption, making a deal between MLB and Apple more attractive to both parties.

In Australia Amazon Prime is believed to have bid for the rights to Formula One. In the end Foxtel retained the rights for the next three years.

In 2019, Amazon also purchased shares of the YES Network, which airs New York Yankees games, and streams the regular-season contests. It has a deal with the Women’s National Basketball Association around its in-season tournament, an idea the NBA wants to adopt, as well as tennis streaming rights.

“Step by step, they’ve built a very substantial portfolio in sports, not just in the U.S. but worldwide,” said Berke. “It’s a multiyear process to demonstrate that you have the chops in terms of production, sales, distribution on a professional level that’s glitch-free.”

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