Apple is giving serious consideration to making what would presumably be a costly bid for Premier League football streaming rights, according to a new report.
In an article that includes the contributions of well-known Apple leaker Mark Gurman and three other reporters–accompanied by an eccentric photo caption that makes us wonder if any of them know what a penalty kick is–Bloomberg claims Apple is looking at a deal that would allow the company to stream various U.K. soccer matches on its own TV+ platform. These would include the commercially very valuable top-tier Premier League but also covers some lower-league football games in England.
Bloomberg cites only anonymous sources “familiar with the situation”–both Apple and the Premier League declined the site’s request for comment–so it isn’t easy to assess the veracity of the report. But it does fit with Cupertino’s increasing and obvious interest in sports coverage. The company began broadcasting MLS games in February, and that’s on top of the Major League Baseball coverage that will imminently be restricted to those with a TV+ subscription. The MLS deal is merely the tip of the soccer iceberg for Apple, which won bags of awards for the first two seasons of “Ted Lasso” and has made two documentaries about the sport (“Real Madrid: Until The End” and “Super League: The War For Football”) which you can watch on TV+.
That doesn’t mean, of course, that every soccer-related rumor is accurate. In November a British tabloid claimed Apple wanted to buy the superclub Manchester United, and this came to naught. As we wrote at the time, “Encompassing two of the biggest brand names in the world, this story is the perfect storm for rumormongers: if it wasn’t true, someone would make it up.” Similar logic might suggest caution regarding this rumor too.
Unlike the Man United story, however, this one has a precedent. Indeed, a bid of this sort would bring Apple into direct contribution with its great tech rival Amazon, which shows Premier League football matches at the moment and owns the rights, jointly with Sky and BT Sport, up to the 2024-2025 season. Apple would be bidding for matches beyond that point, and Amazon, assuming it is happy with the commercial success of the venture, is likely to be among those it will be bidding against.
The temptation with Apple is to look at how much it could theoretically afford to spend on acquisitions and other purchases and then assume the firm’s management and shareholders would be happy to do so. It is so astronomically wealthy that such calculations would lead the unwary pundit to assume that no existing business or deal is beyond Tim Cook’s grasp: hence the Manchester United rumor. But the company has become so rich, at least in part, because of its caution about spending money on uncertain ventures. Would a Premier League streaming deal strike Cupertino as good value?
According to Bloomberg, the Premier League sold domestic rights for the years 2022 to 2025 for $6.3 billion, but that appears to be a total across multiple broadcasters: BT Sport and Amazon, for instance, are believed to have each spent £90m (roughly $111m) for the 20 matches they got each season. This would suggest an extremely approximate ballpark of $330m for Apple’s potential three-year deal, assuming it’s looking to buy some of the games rather than all of them. Nobody signs off that much money on a whim, but it’s far more plausible than the $10 billion Apple was supposedly being asked to pay for Manchester United and, frankly, chicken feed for a company of this size.
That doesn’t mean the story is true, or that Apple will succeed in its bid even if it is. But we can at least say that it’s plausible in a way the Man Utd story wasn’t.