After much hype, Apple finally debuted MLS Season Pass on Wednesday. The digital streaming service will carry every team’s regular-season, playoff and Leagues Cup matches for the next 10 years at least. While games are still almost a month away, this was the first chance for fans and media to get a closer look at the service.
Here’s some of what we learned:
MLS is front and center
As soon as you go to AppleTV, it’s impossible to miss the new service. It’s prominently featured just about everywhere you scroll on the page from the top tabs to farther down the page. I’m sure that will change as the season progresses, but it seems to be a good sign that Apple is promoting it. I also liked that at least on Apple and Roku devices it all loaded very quickly and came through with high-quality video.
Ease of starting the service
In addition to unveiling the service, season-ticket holders were also given codes to activate their accounts. Having gone through the process myself, I imagine there were some frustrations, even if most were relatively easy to navigate. I was forced to update my iOS in order to redeem the code, which took about 15 minutes all in. An Apple rep assured me that anyone with a web-connected device could redeem the code, even if they couldn’t run the native app.
The trickier part will be in sharing access. Since redemption codes were given out per account — not per seat — I imagine the sharing feature will be widely used, but will also be a source of frustration. Apple allows users to share access to this service with up to five other people as long as they have an Apple ID, but you’ll also need to make them part of your “Family Sharing” plan. It also appears as though you can only add people to your plan while using an Apple device. Not ideal.
There’s already a ton of content
Just looking at the Sounders page, there are about a dozen features as well as countless clips of goals and highlights. I couldn’t quite figure out how to do it now, but eventually, you’ll apparently be able to watch match replays all the way back to 2019. Although the quality and length of the “Club Profiles” range pretty wildly — some are as short as 90 seconds while LAFC’s is an Avatar-esque 31 minutes — the Sounders’ video clocked in a very manageable 8:37 and hit most of what I wanted to see. I also really enjoyed the “Jingle Bells” explainer. Maybe my favorite piece of Sounders content was an episode of “The Movement” that focused on the Sounders’ efforts to become carbon neutral. The features for each team should be updated frequently throughout the year.
Most, if not all, of this content is free to everyone with an AppleID.
Outside the paywall
Apple confirmed that there will actually be quite a lot of content available outside of the paywall. Most notably, six games every week will be available for anyone who creates a free Apple ID. That’s 40% of games. While that’s not quite as good as prior years for fans of teams who broadcast most of their matches over-the-air, that’s considerably more games than were nationally televised in the past. My suspicion is it should be more than enough to give casual fans an entry point.