When rumours of Apple’s new streaming service began circulating, many expected it to be more than just a platform for Apple’s own original content. Early reports led many to believe Apple was planning to release a premium TV bundle that could have included networks like HBO, Showtime, and Starz on board, but as Apple’s plans came into focus, it became apparent that Apple was really just offering a TV storefront for those, while focusing on original content for its own streaming service.
Despite this, however, it’s become clear that Apple still wants to do more with Apple TV+ than merely offering its own original programming to draw in new subscribers. We heard reports last month that Apple was in negotiations with MGM and Pac-12 to bring live sports and movies to the service, and although such negotiations were said to be at a “preliminary stage” a more recent report this week by CNBC has confirmed that Apple and MGM have not only been talking about licensing content, but actually the possibility of an outright acquisition of the studio by the trillion dollar tech company.
While MGM has apparently been shopping itself around to several other companies as well, including Amazon and Netflix, Apple potentially has the most to gain from such a deal, and the cash that might be necessary to make it happen. MGM owns the entire James Bond catalog and is also the studio behind several hit shows that are carried by other streaming services, such as The Handmaid’s Tale. While Apple has been reluctant to license content for Apple TV+, since it likely doesn’t want to be held hostage by content owners, an outright acquisition like this would have a greater appeal for the company, which typically likes to control as many of the pieces as possible for the products and services it offers.
Live Sports — The Next Frontier?
Another area that Apple seems eager to expand into is live sports. This is something that the company has been exploring for several years, and if the talks with Pac-12 reported last month come to fruition, Apple would be able to bring live collegiate sports to Apple TV+, which would mark the first entry for collegiate sports on any network or service.
It also seems that Apple hasn’t given up entirely on NFL broadcasts. Four years ago we heard reports that Apple was in negotiations with the NFL to bring Thursday Night Football to the Apple TV, but that was obviously years before Apple had any kind of streaming service ready, and the NFL ended up signing the deal with Amazon instead, which already had its Prime service going strong at that point.
The Thursday Night Football deal with Amazon was renewed in 2018 for another two years for $130 million, but it’s unclear what could happen with it this year once that contract is up. In the meantime, however, it seems that Apple could soon land NFL Sunday Ticket once its deal with DirecTV runs out.
The news comes from a report in The Athletic (via 9to5Mac), which says that DirecTV is “widely expected to walk away” from the deal as its parent company, AT&T changes its priorities. While the NFL isn’t allowed to negotiate with other firms under the terms of its current partnership agreements, the Athletic notes that it’s “no secret” that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and Apple CEO Tim Cook are known to “talk.”
The NFL has long been under pressure to open Sunday Ticket to more platforms than just satellite, and streaming it through Apple TV would solve that concern.
There have also been concerns that DirecTV’s exclusive deal for NFL Sunday Ticket has limited the size of its potential audience, since it’s only available to satellite subscribers. However, it’s also possible that the NFL may be looking for a package deal, and Apple is said to be “in the mix” with Amazon and others for not only Sunday Ticket, but also RedZone and the NFL’s Sunday afternoon, Sunday night, Monday, and Thursday night football packages.
Now that Apple has a streaming service in place — and a couple hundred billion in cash sitting in the bank — it’s in a much more viable position to pick up at least one of these packages, which would definitely help the company to set Apple TV+ apart and gain even more subscribers.