I’m a bit late in writing on the impending MLB deals. But with a little perspective, I can provide you with a look at the new TV contracts, plus give you the winners and losers that provides MLB with increased rights fees from its three partners.
Last week, Richard Sandomir of the New York Times reported that Major League Baseball was about to renew its agreements with current rightsholders, Fox Sports and Turner Broadcasting with a few differences from their current deals. And last month, it was announced that ESPN had agreed on a new eight year deal that increases its commitment to baseball plus brings the Alleged Worldwide Leader back into the MLB Postseason.
Up until the media reports on the new Fox and Turner deals, there was speculation about Turner bringing in CBS as a partner and Fox possibly combining its regular season Saturday games with Turner’s package of postseason series. However, when everything was all said and done, Fox and Turner remained as partners with some slight changes to their packages. And while the new deals with Fox and Turner have yet to be confirmed, expect a formal announcement soon.
Let’s review what each network will offer the American people when the new contracts take effect in 2014.
First, MLB will see increased rights payments from ESPN, Fox and Turner totaling $1.55 billion per year starting in 2014, up from the current $755 million.
Second, MLB will have four national cable outlets for games which will be explained later.
Third, Fox will have an increased role in the MLB Postseason after giving back some games in the current contract.
Fourth, MLB Network will have increased playoff games as well.
Now, let’s break down what each network will offer under their new contracts.
- ESPN will offer 90 regular season games.
- ESPN keeps its present Sunday, Monday and Wednesday night windows.
- Brings back holiday games on Memorial Day, 4th of July and Labor Day.
- Reduced local blackouts.
- Coverage of Opening Day games.
- Retains rights to the All-Star Home Run Derby and other All-Star Weekend events.
- Gains rights to one Wild Card Playoff game.
- Retains radio and international rights.
- Increases digital rights.
- Retains rights to Saturday afternoon games.
- Increases amount of regular season games and will place them on rebranded Speed channel, to be reportedly named “Fox Sports 1″
- Retains rights to the annual All-Star Game.
- Gains rights to two League Division Series, some games to be sold to MLB Network, others will be aired on Fox Sports One.
- Retains rights to one League Championship Series and the World Series.
- Reduced amount of Sunday afternoon games from 26 to 13.
- No local blackouts of its Sunday broadcasts.
- Retains rights to one Wild Card Playoff game.
- Rights to two League Division Series, down from four in the current contract.
- Retains rights to one League Championship Series.
- Increased digital rights for the newly-acquired Bleacher Report.
- Continued broadcast of games on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and selected Saturday night games.
- Purchased rights from Fox to air League Division Series games.
While Major League Baseball will keep the status quo with its television partners, you can see that roles will change. ESPN is back in the postseason with one Wild Card game and increases its regular season inventory. Fox gets to use baseball to create an all-new cable sports network to compete with ESPN while increasing its inventory of Saturday games. TBS halves its Sunday games reducing to its lowest amount of games dating back to its days of airing the Atlanta Braves.
So our winners: ESPN and Fox. They get to increase their regular season inventory as well as their postseason inventory. Fox also has baseball for its new cable network.
Losers: Turner Sports. It has to pay more for less, both for regular season and postseason games. And NBC Sports which had been at the bargaining table hoping to get back into the baseball business and was depending on MLB to shore up NBC Sports Network. Now the Peacock has to look to NASCAR as a possible savior.
In conclusion, MLB will have a new outlet to air games in Fox Sports 1 plus keeping all of its media partners. Also, MLB will have a goal of four cable networks airing its games, ESPN, Fox’s entry, MLB Network and TBS. Fox will remain the only broadcast network. And MLB will get more money in its bank account.
Overall, this latest negotiation turned out to be very successful and provides plenty of stability through the 2021 season.