When Major League Soccer, Apple, New York City FC, and the rest of the teams announced that all matches will be streamed via Apple TV starting in 2023, there were quite a few concerns about the plan. Not only would non-season ticket holders have to pay in order to watch their team, but that would eliminate local-based production and commentators. Few matches would be shown on TV, and it would possibly make it difficult to grow fan bases, and as such, the league.
As time went on, thankfully Apple hired not only big names to be part of the team, but they hired the local analysts, commentators, and more. Not everyone was hired though, and that included NYCFC voices, Ian Joy and Joe Tolleson. They also announced, and have already produced, team related content, which is always a good thing.
As such, despite concerns, there are some good things about the MLS Season Pass, and then there are still the not-so great things. It is not perfect, and so far early on, concerns remain about the growth of the game. Yes, it is easier for people internationally to watch MLS, but it makes it difficult to catch the attention of possible fans in the United States. Plus, those who did not have to pay extra to watch their teams via TV now have to, and that could cause a loss of fans.
From the NYCFC perspective, it is mixed. For those who had the YES Network, it is extra money that has to be spent just to watch the Pigeons. For those who did not have YES, the MLS Season Pass is perfect.
There are mixed thoughts regarding New York City FC on Apple TV
Notably, every New York City FC fan will have their opinion, and they will differ. If there is one opinion that supporters will probably be aligned with, then it is the picture quality. For the most part, the picture quality has been clear and stellar. The camera angles can use work, especially for those filming at Yankee Stadium. But, compared to the picture quality from some of the games on the national market, Apple is not cutting corners and giving poor Wi-Fi streaming vibes.
Another great aspect of the MLS Season Pass is the preshow. So far, it has been an interesting experience to see the coverage on all of the other teams, and it does seem the hosts try to give equal coverage to everyone. It is a good preshow, but with that being said, having a NYCFC focused preshow is missed.
Meanwhile, it has been a mixed bag with the play-by-play commentators and color analysts. Apple has rotated, as they intended to do, different individuals, but it seems they might keep the same pairs together. As a result, every team will have former commentators and analysts from other teams, and there is always a chance of hearing new blood or those who are known nationally. For NYCFC, some have been great, and others have been okay. Out of respect, Skyscraper Blues will not say who.
But there is nothing like having the local commentators who supporters get to know week in and week out. So, no one is as good as Ian and Joe when it comes to calling the Pigeons. There is that lack of passion and inside knowledge. Plus, those watching at home cannot have the connection to those calling the game, and most NYCFC fans loved Ian and Joe. They became a part of the NYCFC family because they called most of the games on local TV.
It is very unfortunate MLS eliminated that local connection that other leagues have, like Major League Baseball. There is a lack of the local bias during matches, and sometimes NYCFC supporters have to listen to poor commentating by those who do not know the ins and outs of the team. Of course, those who commentate for the MLS Season Pass cannot do that for all MLS teams, and that is understandable. But that hurts the coverage of the individual teams. For the Pigeons, it has not been terrible, but noticeable.
With that being said, supporters can listen to their local radio commentators for their team while streaming the game. At least that is one positive thing Apple and MLS did do, and NYCFC’s radio announcers are superb. Supporters can listen to Glenn Crooks and Matt Lawrence in English, and then Roberto Abramowitz and Ariel Judas in Spanish.
The production of the MLS Season Pass is fantastic, there is no question about that. There are some good commentary teams, but the lack of the local commentators teams used to hear every week is depressing. The fact the majority of games are behind a paywall is also not a great look, for MLS should allow supporters to watch their teams in their local markets without the high price.
New York City FC coverage could improve, and it would not be surprising if the same went for other teams. There is still time for Apple and MLS to make changes, and improve the season pass over this year and into the next. If only it was possible to have the local coverage with the Apple TV deal…