25 APR 2024

Apple increases its content spend. Will FIFA's Club World Cup rights be the next step?

The global football governing body is allegedly close to an agreement with the tech company for the TV rights for a new international club tournament set to take place in the U.S. between June 15 and July 13, 2025.

25 APR 2024

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Global football organization FIFA is close to an agreement with Apple for the worldwide television rights for the Club World Cup, a 32-team event to be held next year between June 15 and July 13, as reported by the New York Times. The deal with Apple could be valued at around $1 billion, a quarter of the $4 billion FIFA had first estimated, the report said. Sponsors have also been reluctant to commit the $150 million that FIFA is seeking for sponsorship packages, the report said.

If the deal goes through, this would mark the first time that FIFA has agreed to a single worldwide contract. The potential agreement would give Apple TV+ an edge amid competition among streaming services providers to lap up rights for widely watched sporting events in a bid to add subscribers. It would also represent the latest foray into football for Apple, which in 2022 signed a 10-year, $2.5B agreement for the global streaming rights to MLS.

The agreement could be announced as soon as this month, according to the New York Times. It comes after several false starts for a competition championed by FIFA’s president, Gianni Infantino. Plans to hold it in China in 2021 were scuttled because of the pandemic.

Moreover, Ampere Analysis explained that, between February and March 2024, the U.S. Apple TV+ catalogue grew by 25%. This represents the biggest absolute month-on-month growth in the catalogue since the platform’s launch in 2019. The vast majority of this growth can be attributed to the 50+ feature films Apple licensed, including "Mean Girls", "Gravity" and "Minority Report". The addition of so many licensed titles marks a major strategic shift away from the service’s near-exclusive focus on original content. In February, Apple TV+ Originals and Exclusives made up 93% of the catalogue – by March this fell to 75%. Only the U.S. has seen a change of this scale, with the catalogue in other tracked markets not exhibiting a comparable increase.

Outside of being new behaviour for Apple, the quality of the assets, variety of sources and brevity of the deals all make this licensing strategy stand out. The newly added movies include some exceptionally high performing titles. In the month prior to its arrival on Apple TV+, for example, "Mean Girls" was the 20th most popular movie available on SVoD in the USA, and "Titanic" was 64th. A further 11 of the licensed titles ranked within the 500 most popular movies, including "The Wolf of Wall Street", "Jurassic World" and "Spider-Man".

The movies are also well-reviewed, with 41 of the licensed titles earning a critical rating above 70 (out of 100), placing these movies within the top 1% of all content produced. The strength of the incoming assets – and the lack of "filler" titles – maintains Apple TV+’s image as a hub of premium content. The value these movies add to Apple TV+ has already been demonstrated through the platform’s own top movies chart, where the licensed films have had a big impact. In the last two weeks of February 2024, the top 10 positions of the chart were filled almost entirely with Apple’s own originals or exclusives, but the wave of licensed feature films has now led to an almost even split between Apple-branded content and licensed titles.

The licensed movies come from a wide range of major studios. Rather than partnering with one major studio for the portfolio of titles, Apple has simultaneously licensed content from every major Hollywood studio, including Disney (with titles such as "Fight Club" and "Con Air"), Lionsgate ("The Hurt Locker"), Universal ("Fast & Furious 6", "Jurassic World"), Paramount ("Star Trek", "Zoolander"), Sony ("Zombieland", "Men in Black") and Warner Bros. ("A Star is Born", "Mad Max: Fury Road"). 

The individual deals are expected to be short-lived. Some of the movies that arrived on Apple TV+ in early March had already exited the content library by early April, including "Titanic", "Zoolander" and both volumes of "Kill Bill". A further batch of similarly high-value movies were added in April (including "Clueless", "Inception", "John Wick" and "Transformers") which we can also expect to stay on the streamer for only a short period of time while typically maintaining their presence on other SVOD platforms, including the partner studios’ own direct-to-consumer services.