Could Apple expand into live sports on Apple TV+?

One area where Apple hopes to capture the attention of consumers and turn Apple TV+ into a hub worth subscribing to is with sport. Amazon has shown that streamers can handle live sporting events like tennis and the Premier League, and now Apple wants a bite of the same pie.

The company is reportedly bidding for streaming rights for the National Football League’s “Sunday Ticket” package, and is in discussions with NFL executives, though it’s thought that NFL is also speaking to other television networks and technology firms, so there’s no guarantee that Apple will come out victorious. Right now, Sunday Ticket streams on DirecTV, but if Apple was to acquire the rights, users would be able to watch non-prime time games from all 32 NFL teams on Apple TV+.

It’s believed that DirecTV pays around $1.5 billion for rights to Sunday Ticket games, but with a bidding war afoot, Apple might need to open its purse a little wider than that. It’s worth noting that Apple acquired MGM for $8.4 billion, but that offered the company more than 4,000 films and 17,000 hours of TV – if Apple paid $2 billion for Sunday Ticket games, it’d be a seriously expensive commitment and the firm would need to work hard to encourage consumers to make the leap over to the platform.

It’s thought that Disney is also interested in acquiring the rights for its ESPN streaming service, and Apple has yet to be seen as a serious contender for the rights as it’s failed to invest big money in entertainment programming thus far. However, it’s worth noting that the company has a relationship with the National Football League, hiring James DeLorenzo to run a sports division for the company back in 2020. DeLorenzo was previously responsible for negotiating Amazon’s deal with the NFL to stream live games, so it could be that Apple finally wants to spend some money and give Apple TV+ the content and attention it needs.

And talks over Sunday Ticket aren’t the first sporting excursions Apple has made: the firm had previously expressed an interest in live streaming college sports, but nothing came of those talks and there’s still very little sports-related content on Apple TV+, which right now focuses more on dramas, documentaries, and comedies. Introducing sports content makes a great deal of sense for the United States market, and as reported by Jacob Feldman of Sportico, “Apple has the theoretical means to do just about anything it wants regarding sports content. Nearly $200 billion in available cash alone would be, on paper, more than enough to purchase every NFL team—twice.

And yet, years since Apple CEO Tim Cook announced the company’s Apple TV+ streaming service, he has not yet landed exclusive rights to any sports activity.” He revealed that the company has been expressing interest in sports content since 2018 when Apple was reportedly bidding for The Match, a “head-to-head match play contest between golfers Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson,” but the firm added that it was “not yet ready to wade into live rights.” With a dedicated Sports tab in the Apple TV app and dozens of deep integrations, like sports results inside of Siri, Apple offers the perfect sports fan’s platform.

Others have pointed out that the COVID-19 pandemic has slowed down the production of new shows like The Morning Show, See, Foundation, and Ted Lasso, and thus adding sports into the mix would encourage users to give Apple TV+ another chance, especially if it was pushed with a major marketing campaign. Add in multiple streaming tiers that offer more access to games and behind-the-scenes sporting content and analysis, and Apple could easily make Apple TV+ the home of live sporting entertainment around the world – whilst still building its portfolio of quality, poignant television shows and movies for the whole family.

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