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Gaining clarity on MLS Season Pass broadcasts

The first real look at MLS games on Apple TV is almost here.

MLS Communications

As we get closer and closer to the start of the season and watching actual MLS games, more details have come out about what all will come along with MLS Season Pass and the league’s broadcasting deal with Apple TV. With the news that MLS Season Pass will be available in bars and free to T-Mobile customers, it’s worth digging into what’s actually going to be on the screen and how it’s going to look.

First and most importantly, the actual games will be shot using more cameras than ever — as of 2020 a typical MLS broadcast featured around 10 cameras. The exact number will be dynamic depending on the stadium and other circumstances, but Championship games will be shot using more than 20 cameras. That footage will then be broadcast in 1080p resolution — gone are the days of tuning into an MLS game that looks like it’s in standard definition. All the fun, new kits teams will be rocking should come through clearer than ever before.

The production of MLS Season Pass will be handled by IMG. If you’ve watched the Premier League or UEFA Champions League, you’ve seen the work they’re capable of. “We are excited to be part of this transformative new partnership between MLS and Apple,” said IMG Productions’ executive vice president and head of global production, Barney Francis, in a statement provided by MLS, “and we look forward to bringing the highest level of innovation to their live coverage for fans globally.”

The partnership promises a viewing experience that feels uniquely MLS and Apple, featuring a custom graphics package that will integrate gameday atmosphere and the action and emotions from the field in an effort to improve the storytelling throughout MLS Season Pass.

Every MLS game will be available with English and Spanish commentary teams, and all Canadian games will also feature French commentary. If those commentary options aren’t quite to your liking, you can also opt for the audio from the home team’s radio broadcast synced with the game. While the initial promise of this feature seemed to be that if a Sounders fan, for example, wanted to listen to the Sounders radio for any game, that would be available through MLS Season Pass, but that’s ultimately not the reality — only the home radio broadcast will be available. You could still mute the commentary and play the radio broadcast separately, but it’s obviously not the same.

Gameday broadcasts aren’t just limited to the games themselves. Each gameday will feature, in addition to the actual games, three studio shows: MLS Countdown, MLS Wrap-up and MLS 360. MLS Countdown is a pre-game show that will look at the day’s slate of games and provide a primer on the match-ups and storylines to best prepare you for the action. There will be a 30-minute version of Countdown ahead of the opening slate of games for the day, with a smaller 15-minute version for each subsequent time slot that will look more specifically at those games. MLS Wrap-up will air following the conclusion of all of the day’s action, recapping the action and analyzing the biggest moments. Countdown and Wrap-up will both be available in English and Spanish, with both versions including separate broadcast teams working out of their own studios. The third show, which will also operate out of its own studio, is MLS 360. The new whip-around show will be English only, at least for now, and will run the full span of any day’s games, totaling as much as five hours of coverage. The studio will provide for a variety of different types of coverage and content on 360, from commentary, analysis and debate to breaking news and interviews, in addition to all of the biggest plays and most exciting moments.

There’s no substitute to actually seeing the new broadcasts in action, but MLS Season Pass seems likely to be a notable improvement on MLS broadcasts of the past. From the breadth of free games available to the promise of no blackouts and the ability to watch any and every game, including replays available immediately after the conclusion of each game, to the fact that because MLS games won’t have to wrestle with other games or broadcasts for screen time, you’ll never have to worry about whether the Little League World Series goes to extra innings or if you even have FS2/ESPNU/whatever channel your game got bumped to until the conclusion of the previous event. On that last note, that also means that if a game needs a little extra room to breathe or warrants additional discussion, there’s flexibility to let a broadcast keep running.

We’re just over a week away from our first real games on MLS Season Pass, but at this point the service looks to be is shaping up well.

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