Lionel Messi's months-old partnership with Major League Soccer and Apple TV+ is already paying dividends, as the streaming services have recorded a surge in subscriptions since the World Cup champion signed with Inter Miami.
There were 110,000 sign-ups to MLS Season Pass – the US football body's streaming service – on the day Messi made his debut with Inter Miami, according to subscription analytics company Antenna.
This was a 280 per cent increase on the number that signed up on the first day of the 2023 MLS season, Antenna said.
Messi's effect on sign-ups is atypical for a sports league, with the majority of sign-ups for a league's streaming service coming at the start of the season. This season, the MLS Season Pass recorded 15 per cent of its sign-ups when the season began in February and 46 per cent after Messi arrived in July.
This effect has extended to Apple TV+ as well, with about 50 per cent of those who signed up for MLS Season Pass already Apple TV+ subscribers at the time, while 15 per cent subscribed some time after signing up.
The MLS Season Pass costs $12.99 per month or $25 per season for Apple TV+ subscribers. The streaming service costs $14.99 per month or $29 per season for non-subscribers, as of September 6. The service is free to MLS season ticket holders.
Apple and MLS announced their partnership with MLS Season Pass in November, following a trend in which streaming services are joining forces with sports leagues. Amazon Prime announced an 11-year partnership with the NFL in March to stream Thursday Night Football, while YouTube will carry its first season of the NFL's Sunday Ticket Package. YouTube's deal is for seven seasons and is valued at about $2 billion per season.
Apple signed a 10-year, $2.5 billion deal with MLS last year.
As part of his contract with Inter Miami, Messi will receive a revenue share of MLS Season Pass and Apple TV+ subscriptions, several media outlets reported.
His contract with Inter Miami runs through the 2025 season.