SportsPro Says… Apple’s sports app reveals how the tech giant wants to become the focus of fans’ digital lives

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Key Details:

  • Apple Sports app offers live scores, stats and streaming information
  • Launch in US, UK, and Canada coincides with start of new MLS season
  • App supports MLS, the NBA, the NHL, college basketball, Premier League, Bundesliga, Serie A, Ligue 1 and Liga MX
  • App will also direct users to relevant streaming service for live sports in some markets
  • Users can customise app with favourite leagues and teams, with data shared across Apple TV and Apple News

SportsPro says…

Apple Sports is everything you expect from a first-party iOS app in terms of design and usability. It’s rapid, intuitive, and aesthetically pleasing, but it’s also threadbare in terms of functionality and does little to stand out in a crowded marketplace.

Live score applications were some of the first apps available when the App Store first launched in 2008 – and most broadcasters and rights holders offer live scores as part of their wider offerings.

But this is Apple. While superior and competing apps exist on the App Store for everything from email and messaging to music and podcasts, many iOS users continue to use the company’s first-party applications by default.

With an active user base in the hundreds of millions, Apple Sports becomes an important channel for the industry by default and should the company decide to bid for more live broadcast rights, it can promise prospective partners greater exposure. Indeed, MLS receives top billing at launch.

It’s hard to interpret the launch of Apple Sports as anything but a placeholder and it is probable more functionality will be added over the coming months and years. Apple wants its devices and services to become the hub for our digital lives, whether it’s news, audio, video, fitness or gaming.

Sport is the next frontier in that ambition. By making the native experience as optimal as possible, the company hopes to retain and attract as many consumers in its digital ecosystem, driving hardware and software sales for years to come.

If rights holders and broadcasters optimise their experiences for Apple’s ecosystem, then sports fans are more likely to buy Apple hardware and subscribe to its digital services.

The likes of the NBA and MLB, both of which have been enthusiastic supporters of Apple in the past, might double down on their commitment – even if they don’t enter formal rights agreements. There has been plenty of speculation that ESPN wants to serve as an aggregator for the sporting world, potentially by partnering with a tech or telecoms company, but what’s to stop Apple performing that same role?

Behind the almighty iPhone, services is now by far the technology giant’s second biggest revenue category and the segment has almost doubled in size since 2019. It is unlikely that Apple Sports will add greatly to that income from the consumer end unless the company starts taking a cut from subscriptions made via the app. But, as an aggregator, there could certainly be some B2B revenue benefits if leagues or teams wanted to plug their digital broadcast via a sports platform that will be in the pockets of billions of people worldwide. 

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