What Are the Odds, Apple?

Apple Sports: New Free App Provides Real-Time Scores and Stats, Designed to Drive Apple TV Tune-In
The free Apple Sports app is designed to fire scores and stats to your iPhone as quickly as possible -- and to drive tune-in of games on Apple TV.

At first, I was confused, Apple just released a brand new app on a seemingly random Wednesday in February. Not tied to a new iOS release or anything. But it's clearly because the MLS season kicks off tonight. And Apple clearly wants to kick that partnership into a higher gear, to mix some sports metaphors.

The business case? The app also is designed to drive viewership to the Apple TV app to watch live sports — including all Major League Soccer matches, which are available through Apple TV’s MLS Season Pass subscription add-on under an exclusive 10-year worldwide deal the tech company struck with the league. Apple Sports includes a “Watch on Apple TV” button for each game (if applicable), which kicks open the Apple TV app to the service that’s livestreaming the event and where you can subscribe, if you don’t already.

The app is super simple, with only the leagues currently in season available to see. But MLB will obviously be coming in a few weeks, when that season starts. And we'll undoubtedly see links to Apple's Friday Night Baseball broadcasts, just like the MLS integration here.

The next question: do they start to link to other apps showing other content, even when it's not Apple TV+ content? This line in the press release seems to allude to just that:

...and tap to go to the Apple TV app to watch live games from Apple and connected streaming apps.

This is obviously top of mind with what Disney/Fox/Warner just announced in the form of a new partnership/service, which apparently will be ready to go in the fall, just in time for the NFL season... Might Apple be able to become the app that ties all of live sports content together, if only through links out?

The next question after that: is there anything more to read into here regarding a potential Apple/ESPN tie-up? At first glance, this new Sports app would seem to be a competitor to ESPN's app (and future apps). But what if it's a way to also showcase ESPN games in the future? Just thinking out loud here...

One more thought: what if this app also becomes a vessel to get new sports content onto the Vision Pro? The app seems to be iPhone-only for now, but might it be a way to deliver say, highlights of games shot specifically for Vision Pro? Presumably they'll put those in the Apple TV app, but a lot of the Vision Pro content feels a bit buried in there at the moment. Might be interesting to have a dedicated hub...

One surprise: despite the app being as simple as possible, Apple included betting odds in this first version.1 This feels like a decidedly un-Apple move. Of course, it also was famously a un-ESPN (Disney) move, until it wasn't...

Update 2/23/24: Some further thoughts and clarifications on the new app...

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1 Which they clearly feel weird about as they included a footnote that the odds can be disabled in settings. Also slightly, um, odd to be rated "4+" with gambling front-and-center?