Last week we said goodbye to a dear friend but welcomed a new one. MLS LIVE will be coming to an end in favor of ESPN+, Disney’s foray into the world as an OTT provider. Starting this season, all of the matches that would have been available to MLS LIVE subscribers will now be accessible with an ESPN+ subscription.
MLS’ 23rd season kicks off in less than 2 weeks, which is before the launch of the platform (anticipated rollout this spring). In the meantime, matches will be made available for free on MLSsoccer.com.
This shift will include roughly 250 MLS out-of-market games, in other words, one will be able to watch all of the matches that are not on national TV as long as their home team isn’t involved.
The change in platform will be a welcomed financial move for fans as ESPN+ is only $4.99 per month, while MLS LIVE was $79.99 a year ($6.67 per month). In addition, fans will get access to other programming that is available on the platform.
The move will be an interesting one to follow as this represents the league’s intent to cut costs and expand their reach in favor of controlling their own streaming assets. MLS now has the opportunity to get its product in front of a wider digitally savvy crowd that isn’t made up of only current fans. The likely tradeoff is a trimmed revenue source, but as the league is still in its growth phase and therefore the heavy investment portion of its lifecycle, this move appears to be a smart, long-term strategic play.
MLS’ official press release did not touch on whether ESPN+ would carry archived matches and condensed replays like MLS LIVE had in the past. Furthermore, fans in Canada will have to wait to find out about how they will be able to stream out-of-market matches once ESPN+ is live because the platform will be only available in the United States.
Financial figures of the deal between the league and ESPN were not made public.