Apple is on an “aggressive hunt” for potential deals that would allow it to score the rights to live sports content to stream on its Apple TV+ streaming service. The effort is part of a wider effort to increase subscriber numbers.
That information comes from a new investor note from Wedbush analyst Dan Ives (shared by MacRumors). In the note, Ives says that Apple’s decision to not buy a movie studio proves that the Cupertino firm now sees live sports programming as a key part of its future success in growing its streaming service.
Apple doesn’t announce detailed subscriber reports for Apple TV+, but Wedbush estimates the service has approximately 20 million paid subscribers and around 45 million viewers. Many of those viewers are enjoying extended free trials for buying select Apple products. Those numbers are a fraction of that boasted by competitors, including Disney+ and Netflix.
Apple is said to be “ready to spend billions” on live sports content over the next four years to drive the future growth of Apple TV+.
With Apple spending $7 billion annually on original content and having roughly $200 billion of cash on its balance sheet, we believe the company is gearing up to bid on a number of upcoming sports packages coming up for contract/renewals in future years. We note that upcoming sports packages potentially for bid over the next four years that Apple can be involved with (in some capacity/semi-exclusive) are: NFL (Sunday Night Ticket), Big Ten, Pac 12, Big East, Big 12, other NCAA sports packages (2024 timing), NASCAR, and the NBA/WNBA.
Currently, Apple TV+ does not offer support for any kind of live streaming, instead offering access to on-demand television and movie content.
Earlier this month, The New York Post reported that Apple has entered talks with Major League Baseball about a possible deal to carry MLB games next season. The talks are for weekday national games that ESPN recently relinquished. ESPN will no longer have regular Monday and Wednesday games. The ESPN games were not exclusive in local markets. It is unclear at this point if Apple would be allowed to wall off these select games from regional sports network coverage or not.
Apple streaming rival Amazon Prime has established itself in the sports arena, and it will become the exclusive home of NFL “Thursday Night Football” in the fall. Amazon reportedly paid over $1 billion for the rights.