Apple TV riding Lionel Messi wave with 'significant' viewership ahead of 2024 MLS season

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Apple Senior Vice President Eddy Cue thought Inter Miami owner Jorge Mas was crazy.

Sign Lionel Messi? You gotta be kidding, right?

“He had this dream of signing Messi, and I thought he was crazy. Crazy people do amazing things sometimes,” Cue said next to MLS commissioner Don Garber at Chase Stadium before Messi and Inter Miami’s season opener on Wednesday.

MLS and Apple are continuing to ride the wave of momentum Messi has brought with his arrival to Inter Miami last summer.

“I won’t give you the exact number, but pre-Messi it was very U.S. dominant. Post-Messi, it changed materially,” Cue said of Messi’s impact on Apple subscriptions and viewership. He had a significant number of subscribers from South American and Europe. So, it was a big change.”

Apple TV’s latest documentary “Messi’s World Cup: The Rise of a Legend” also debuted on Tuesday night, which Cue credited Mas for introducing him to Messi, leading to the behind-the-scenes access of his 2022 World Cup run in Qatar.

Apple TV will also capitalize on its second-year of streaming MLS games on MLS Season Pass with a “significant” increase in subscribers thanks to Messi.

“He feels very, what I understand, very comfortable here. We are very supportive of him. We couldn't be more excited,” Garber said. “I mean, we should not forget that the best player in the history of the game is in Major League Soccer.”

Garber says MLS is receiving more buzz internationally than domestically because of Messi.

But he also understands Messi’s presence in MLS is a fleeting moment.

“At some point Messi won’t be in our league. Who will the next Messi be? It’s no different than what anybody thought when David Beckham left, when Thierry Henry left, when Zlatan left,” Garber said.

In the meantime, Garber is concerned with Messi’s experience in South Florida, and ensuring the league continues to grow in a positive direction for the next soccer star that may come along.

“Getting [Messi] signed was a statement about Major League Soccer that we can compete that we can deliver a great experience for a player with a competitive environment where they can further their career. There's going to be another Leo Messi at some point. And I hope that MLS is in a position to be able to sign that player.”

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Lionel Messi brings global audience to Apple TV, MLS Season Pass