Boardroom catches up with the MVP-turned-commentator about embarking on a new MLS journey with Apple TV after more than a dozen years at ESPN.
For soccer analyst Taylor Twellman, if his gut and his heart are aligned on something, you can bet he’s going to get after it with everything he’s got. And more often than not for over the past two decades, the “it” has been Major League Soccer.
In January, Twellman left ESPN after 13 years to join Apple TV, whose groundbreaking 10-year, $2.5 billion MLS TV deal officially went live Wednesday with the introduction of MLS Season Pass. The 42-year-old put forth a standout nine-year MLS career with the New England Revolution that saw him win 2005 league MVP and Golden Boot honors before pivoting to broadcasting, and he proudly claims that the platform Apple can now provide has never been seen or even approached in the league’s 27-year history.
“Major League Soccer has apologized for who they are. They’ve apologized for trying to make it mainstream to get it mainstream,” Twellman told Boardroom last month from MLS’ preseason media day in San Jose, California. “And for Apple to come in and say, ‘How do we make the consumer experience better,’ that won a lot of us over. That won me over, and it got my attention because now I can unapologetically be who I am and do what I love.”
And Twellman will have much more time to do what he loves as an analyst for Apple, which is promising more consistent and comprehensive coverage of the league than ESPN had, including 30-minute pre- and postgame shows, for example, and complementary programming during the week.
“I no longer have to fight and claw for 30 seconds here or there,” Twellman said. “I am not changing for Major League Soccer and Apple doesn’t want me to change. They just want to give me a little bit more time to do what we do and do what we love, and that’s exactly why I’m here.”
The connection Twellman feels with Apple springs from the company’s stated desire to ensure fans stay happy and feel the love and respect they deserve. That means more cameras shooting matches with heightened visual quality, better audio, and more comprehensive shoulder programming — and for the first time, he said, MLS will be at the forefront of a major media platform’s mind rather than running the risk of becoming an afterthought.
“Apple wants to take Major League Soccer so that every single week your game is going to be covered to the highest of its abilities and to an ability that Major League Soccer on a weekly basis hasn’t been covered,” he said.
Twellman made sure to note that he had some of the best moments and greatest days of his professional life during his ESPN tenure, but he joked that now being able to do what he wants for as long as he wants, as well as the way he wants, is so freeing that it was as if he lost 10 pounds.
“To sit here today, to look into this camera and say I honestly get to do what I love for as long as I want to do it and not be pushed around and pushed aside,” he said. “I feel like I won the lottery today.”
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