Apple looks to be getting ready to launch its move into live sports. Last week, it hired an Amazon exec, James DeLorenzo, to lead showing sporting action on Apple TV+. Such a move always made sense, but even more so now.
Quality is Crucial
It feels like we have a long way to go before people are going to be heading to stadiums and arenas to see their favorite sports teams live. That doesn’t mean people do not want to watch the games. In fact, with leagues around the world returning behind closed doors, quite the opposite is true. Apple could, and should, get a piece of that action.
Given Apple TV+’s limited catalog, live sports would be a welcome addition to the service. I can see it starting with college sports and then moving forward from there. The quality of the offering is going to be crucial though. Whatever one thinks of the dramas, documentaries, and comedies currently on the Apple TV+ roster, they feature a coterie of big-name actors and directors. The same must be true if the service begins to offer sports too. It cannot just be a random series of ESPN castoffs. Doing this is expensive, but doable.
As well as quality, making sure Apple TV+ can show the same content in all the countries in which it’s available will be key. As there is only original content on the service at the moment there are no rights issues and Apple TV+ is consistent around the world. Maintaining this will become much more complex if Apple delves into the world of sports. There are regional blackout issues in the U.S. Here in the UK, meanwhile, no soccer is allowed to be shown live between 2:45 pm and 5:15 pm on a Saturday (although this blackout has been lifted for the remainder of the season during the coronavirus pandemic).
Slow Start Could Hinder Sports on Apple TV+
Most of those issues are surmountable. The biggest problem is that Apple has been a bit slow off the mark. Amazon Prive Video has already moved into Premier League football and broadcast top-level tennis too. Rival streaming service Dazn is also growing.
Ultimately, pandemic or no pandemic, Apple really should have been doing extensive work on this as the service launched, not appointing a lead executive seven months after it has gone live. It is going to take time for Apple to the rights and sort the technical logistics and it feels somewhat further back in the race than it should be.
There is then ground to make up. However, Apple is more than capable of doing so, and let’s hope the recent hire is a step in that direction.