Apple is on an “aggressive hunt” for potential deals that would allow it to broadcast live sports content on its TV+ streaming service as part of a wider effort to boost subscription numbers, according to a new report from investment firm Wedbush.
In a new investor note, seen by MacRumors, Wedbush analyst Dan Ives said he regards Apple’s decision not to acquire a movie studio yet as a clear indication that it now sees live sports programming as potentially a key piece of its future success for growing the audience of its video streaming service.
Apple has not provided details on Apple TV+ subscriber numbers since the digital streaming service began, but Wedbush estimates that Apple TV+ has around 20 million paid subscribers among roughly 45 million viewers, the rest of which are seeing out free trials included with other Apple product purchases.
That’s a fraction of the number of subscriptions that the likes of Disney+ and Netflix enjoys. Knowing this, Apple is apparently “ready to spend billions” on live sports content over the next four years to drive the future growth of Apple TV+ and make it a key monetization engine in its burgeoning services ecosystem, which earned it $80 billion in annual revenue in the last financial year.
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.
At the current time, Apple TV+ does not offer support for any kind of live television, providing access only to on-demand television and movie content, so Apple will need to build in a new sports-oriented section with live TV streaming if it completes any deals.
Earlier this month, The New York Post reported that Apple has entered into discussions with Major League Baseball about a potential deal that would see the company broadcasting MLB games next season, which would represent a major foray into the world of live sports content.
Its current lack of live sports access remains a serious hole in Apple TV‘s programming, with competitors like Amazon already boasting established deals. For example, Amazon’s 20 live English Premier League soccer games will return in the 2022/23 season, and the company has inked a deal to air “Thursday Night Football” games starting this fall, for which it paid more than $1 billion for the access.