First, let’s discuss what Apple TV does well.
When the technology giant’s streaming service took over broadcasting duties for almost all MLS games, they brought order to what had been a fractured, Balkanized system of local and national coverage. For New York City FC fans, it meant an end to rummaging around to see if a game was on YES, or the YES app, or ESPN, or ESPN+, or Fox Sports, or FS1.
It also brought an end to the weird and wild scheduling of past years. With Apple TV’s insistence that almost all matches take place on Saturday or Wednesday, NYCFC could no longer hold games on Tuesdays or Thursdays to accommodate the home schedule of the New York Yankees.
For the first time since the dawn of civilization, we know how and when to watch virtually all MLS games. Well done, Tim Cook.
But everything is far from perfect in Apple TV land. The end of local broadcasts also meant the end of local broadcast teams such as NYCFC’s Ian Joy and Joe Tolleson, and the play-by-play announcers and analysts brought in by Apple TV can be hard on the ears.
The new broadcast teams sometimes mispronounced the names of players, or got basic information about the teams wrong. Their analysis was often simplistic, and provided little insight.
Even worse, at least to some ears, was the tendency to SCREAM AND SHOUT WHEN A PLAYER TOOK A SHOT!!! rather than let the run of play generate its own excitement.
To be fair, some of the broadcasters improved as the season progressed. For example, former New Jersey Red Bulls analyst Steve Cangialosi did a bang-up job when he was assigned to NYCFC’s game against Inter Miami earlier this month.
But the fact remains that the broadcast teams simply haven’t connected with the audience here in New York City.
That problem has been mitigated by the fact that you can change the audio settings for New York City home games, and listen to NYCFC Radio’s Glenn Crooks and Matthew Lawrence. But that’s only for home games: Apple TV should make it available for away games as well.
The standardization of the schedule also has a downside. Most games on the East Coast are played at the same time, which makes it hard to track more than one game at a time if you’re watching from home. And the 7:30 kickoff time means fewer afternoon games, which are more family-friendly. There’s a lot to be said to watching a match on a breezy May afternoon with the kids.
We’ll take the bad with good, and it’s not just because we have no choice.
We sincerely believe that Apple TV will improve MLS Season Pass next year. We hope that the broadcast teams continue to get better (and shout less when a player DRIBBLES INTO THE BOX!!! CAN YOU BELIEVE IT!!! THAT’S WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT!!! MLS MVP-CALIBER PLAY RIGHT THERE!!!!!!!!!!), and that radio broadcasts from both teams are made available for all games. We hope that more matches are staggered, and that afternoon games feature regularly.
MLS Season Pass got off to a good start. Now it’s time to deliver on the promise, and make it an exceptional experience for all viewers.
Final Grade: B