Apple’s Senior Vice President of Services Eddy Cue discusses the company’s latest efforts and future plans for sports streaming and more in a new interview with GQ magazine.
Cue says that live sports is a fundamental aspect of unscripted drama that Apple strives to showcase as part of its fast-growing TV streaming catalog, hailing it as “the greatest unscripted drama there is.”
We spend a lot of money, a lot of time on finding the best unscripted drama in the world. That’s what we try to create in some of our shows that we do for TV+
Eddy Cue to GQ
Apple has been steadily offering more and more live sports as part of its TV+ service, which now includes exclusive rights to the Major League Soccer (MLS) in addition to the MLB Friday Night Baseball. Cue adds that Apple sees a great opportunity to reinvent live sports streaming as we currently know it, which is why the company has been going all-in with its streaming deals.
I think sports is something that is going to continue to grow in importance, but it’s clear that the path that it’s on now is not the right one. And so, what is it? That gave us an opportunity to participate, or to get in the game around it and see if we could shape the future of it. And we’ll see. It’s early, but I think the opportunity’s there. Who’s going to take it and what’s it going to be? Not as clear.
Eddy Cue to GQ
Perhaps surprisingly, Cue confesses that MLS streaming is not something Apple initially wanted to pursue due to the archaic and static nature by which streaming deals are negotiated and structured; choosing a certain sport with a set number of games and a specific region to stream those games. Apple finally came around to its MLS deal by being able to dictate “how to present [the game], deliver it, and use technology.”
In 2021, Cue met with MLS commissioner Don Garber and a Seattle Sounders owner in Mexico, expecting a brief chat but ended up engaging in a three-hour conversation. Cue was intrigued by MLS’s unique ownership of all their streaming rights worldwide, especially as they had decided not to sign new regional rights deals beyond 2022.
Over the course of a year, both sides exchanged proposals and tackled significant questions. Garber sought to understand Apple’s approach to entering the live sports industry, while Apple considered the nature of their partnership and commitments. The focus shifted from conventional rights agreements to a more innovative, long-term partnership approach, challenging the traditional media dynamics.
The result of this year-long back-and-forth was fruitful; Apple and the MLS agreed on a decade-long exclusive deal worth $2.5 billion that would see the former stream every MLS game worldwide for everyone with a TV+ subscription.
Working at Apple comes with the challenge of dealing with the company’s immense scale, making it easy to underestimate the potential of new ideas that initially appear small in comparison to Apple’s vast prowess. Cue emphasized that many of Apple’s most significant innovations didn’t begin as grand concepts but rather grew over time. This philosophy guided their approach to the MLS deal, starting small with a focus on creating an excellent product for MLS fans while remaining open to learning and expanding in the future.
If you look at our numbers from the outside, whether it’s revenues or profitability or the number of iPhones, the numbers can be really big. And so any new idea doesn’t look big enough, because they tend to start pretty small. And so your first reaction is potentially not to do them, because it’s, like, Oh, it’s not a big enough idea. But a lot of our biggest ideas, they didn’t start off with, they’re going to be this big.
Eddy Cue to GQ
Cue confirmed that Apple did indeed cut a revenue-sharing deal with Lionel Messi that’s separate from its partnership with the MLS, a deal that’s described as “unprecedented” in the world of soccer. The deal is just another agreement that Apple is collaborating with Messi on, with the company commissioning two TV+ docuseries surrounding the Argentinian player.