The Messi Effect

NOTE: This post includes Antenna data first reported by The Wall Street Journal on September 5, 2023.

Last month, soccer great Lionel Messi, made his Major League Soccer (MLS) debut with Inter Miami FC. While big names and iconic players are nothing new to professional sports, the addition of Messi to an MLS team roster was big news globally, and exciting for soccer fans in the U.S. Here at Antenna, we were curious: what impact would Messi’s arrival have on MLS Season Pass just a few months after its exclusive launch with Apple?

Antenna observed 110k sign-ups to MLS Season Pass on the day of Lionel Messi's debut with Inter Miami FC, representing a +280% increase from the number of sign-ups generated on the first day of the 2023 season.

The “Messi Effect” on MLS Season Pass throughout July was both unique and profound. Typically, Antenna sees a large portion of total Sign-ups for a league-operated service come before or just at the start of a given season, with gradual additions over the course of the season largely driven by price promotions and occasional bumps driven by big games/events. 

MLS Season Pass only saw 15% of its cumulative sign-ups when the MLS Season opened in late February, while nearly half (46%) of all MLS Season Pass sign-ups to date took place in July on the back of Lionel Messi’s arrival to the league.

MLS Season Pass is uniquely distributed by Apple with incentivized pricing for users who also subscribe to Apple TV+. In analyzing Antenna’s MLS Season Pass sign-up data from February 1 (the first day the service was available to consumers) through July 31, we found that:

  • 48% were already Apple TV+ subscribers at the time of sign-up to MLS Season Pass
  • 37% did not have an Apple TV+ subscription and still do not
  • 15% have become Apple TV+ subscribers (i.e. subscribed or resubscribed at the same time or some time after signing-up to MLS Season Pass)

There’s only one Leo Messi, but direct-to-consumer sports streaming services are proliferating across the spectrum. Numerous Regional Sports Network (RSN) services are already in-market or are soon-to-launch, new sports add-on packages from existing SVOD services have been formally announced, and traditional sports media are actively plotting their streaming future. In addition to media properties who largely license the rights from individual leagues, the leagues themselves are also launching their own streaming services as streaming adoption and time spent surpasses cable. As the sports media landscape continues to transform, Antenna will be watching to see how these shifting dynamics impact consumer streaming behaviors.

For more detailed information on Antenna’s methodology and definitions of core metrics, please visit

Brendan Brady is a Content Strategy Associate at Antenna, a measurement and analytics company providing insight into purchase behavior and subscription metrics across the new media landscape.