NYT: FIFA nearing deal with Apple for Club World Cup

FIFA, soccer’s global governing body, is now close to an agreement with Apple which would give the tech giant worldwide rights to stream the Club World Cup, a new major tournament, next year.

It’s not what FIFA and its ambitious president, Gianni Infantino, wanted, but it’s something. According to The New York Times, the organization is nearing a deal with Apple to sell the TV rights of the Club World Cup to the company.

As announced in June 2023, the tournament will feature 32 clubs from around the world and last a full month in the summer of 2025. The United States will host the competition as a prelude to the 2026 FIFA World Cup, and the plan is to hold the event every four years.

More details are announced regularly as FIFA is attempting to generate excitement over the tournament.

The problem, though, is that so far, no one really likes the idea of it – especially the soccer stars who make millions but still need their rest after 10-month-long seasons in Europe. Players unions have said that FIFA didn’t consult them before firing up the event.

Soccer insiders also say the planning has been poor – for instance, the clubs still have no idea which cities the matches will be staged in. Unsurprisingly, sponsorship partners are hard to secure, and no title partners have been announced.

Now, Apple is entering the fray, although the lack of buzz is probably going to be reflected in the size of the alleged deal. The Times reports that the value of the deal over the broadcasting rights might be as little as a quarter of the $4 billion FIFA had first been hoping for.

Besides, even though FIFA wants the tournament to be watched by as many people as possible, it’s unclear whether the deal with Apple will include free-to-air rights. If it doesn’t, the event could be available only to paying subscribers of Apple TV+, of which there are only about 25 million.

Apple knows soccer, though. In 2022, after Lionel Messi signed for Inter Miami, the company announced a 10-year, $2.5 billion contract for the global streaming rights to Major League Soccer, a North American club soccer competition.

Other streaming services are also increasingly interested in live sports, a proven magnet for subscribers. Amazon Prime has been streaming American football games in the US, and the English Premier League matches in the United Kingdom, for example.

Peacock is the exclusive streamer of the Premier League in the US and it also shows American football playoff games. Netflix has recently announced a deal to stream World Wrestling Entertainment’s weekly wrestling show “Raw,” even though this is more like live “sports-adjacent programming.”

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