Apple Rumoured To Land Rights For 2025 FIFA Club World Cup Tournament

The New York Times:

FIFA, soccer’s global governing body, is close to an agreement with Apple that would give the tech company worldwide television rights for a major new tournament, a monthlong, World Cup-style competition for top teams that will be played for the first time in the United States next summer.

The value of the deal might be as little as a quarter of the $4 billion FIFA had first estimated, the people said. It is unclear if the deal with Apple will include any free-to-air rights, meaning the entire event could be available only to subscribers of Apple TV+, a factor over which senior executives at FIFA have raised concerns.

In his Puck newsletter, John Ourand said that Apple is garnering a reputation of being a ‘bottom feeder’ in sports. The perception is that Apple is an insignificant player, and can only secure the leftover scraps of sports rights, while the likes of Google, Amazon and — to a lesser extent — Netflix fight for the big national packages from the NBA, NFL and others. This is on a backdrop of the reality that Apple’s streaming service, Apple TV+, can only boast low two-digit millions of subscriber membership.

As you might expect, Apple would probably reject the idea of weakness and frame their position differently. Eddy Cue and team clearly value exclusive, unrestricted, streaming rights that are exploitable in many countries and regions. That’s what they got with the MLS deal and MLB Friday Night Baseball, and that’s what the FIFA Club World Cup would be.

Evidently, Apple has the stature and the financial might to secure deals of that nature, when they are available. The simple fact of life right now is the number of those possible deals are thin and far between. The major leagues are not yet willing to yield everything over to streaming, as they try and preserve as much of the reach and exposure that the slowly-dying-but-still-huge traditional broadcast networks provide.

With that context, it becomes more of a strategy question. Is it a blunder not to get what you can, even if it isn’t exactly what you want? Apple certainly has the confidence to sit out and taking things slowly. We’ve seen this play out, almost in the open given the amount of coverage it got, with the NFL Sunday Ticket negotiations. Apple was the frontrunner, but seemingly backed out when it didn’t go their way in the late stages of the dealmaking process.

Another similar situation transpired with the Pac-12. Apple was the leading bidder for a package of rights for the conference, with very similar terms to the MLS deal, but it was held up as some of the leading schools balked at the presented figures. Rather than overspend or give concessions, Apple held firm and they simply watched while member schools defected and the conference imploded altogether.

Perhaps it is misguided bravado, but I think Apple sees themselves as the ones in the position of strength, able to bide their time unless they can get what they want. That doesn’t sound like the mindset of a bottom feeder to me.