Tuesday
Oct022012

Turn On, Tune In, Play Ball: MLB, Fox, TBS Build A New Deal Of Dreams 

By Barry Janoff

October 2, 2012: "The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it's a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again. Oh... people will come Ray. People will most definitely come." Terence Mann (James Earl Jones), Field of Dreams

Major League Baseball took those words to heart on Tuesday, making sure that baseball games would be broadcast on national TV at least through 2021, by signing an extension with media partners Fox and Turner Broadcasting.

The deals come after a contract renewal between MLB and ESPN in August which extended that alliance.

Although fans are key to the process, the trio of contracts was not completely altruistic in nature. The three new pacts were put at a combined $12.4 billion by industry analysts — representing more than a 100% increase in annual rights fees to MLB versus the current deals with Fox, Turner and ESPN.

The new eight-year deals with Fox and Turner begin with the 2014 season. Among the significant bullet points, the World Series and All-Star Game will remain on Fox, and the League Championship and Division Series will be shared across Fox Sports Media Group, TBS and MLB Network.

FSMG will add coverage of two Division Series starting in 2014 and double its number of regular season national windows on Saturdays (from 26 to 52), with 12 of those windows exclusive to Fox and as many as 40 non-exclusive windows on another nationally distributed Fox channel.

TBS will retain the rights to air one League Championship Series, two Division Series and one of the Wild Card Games presented by Budweiser. TBS will also air afternoon games with new co-exist rights on the final 13 Sundays of the regular season.

FSMG and Turner will alternate each year which league’s Division Series and League Championship Series games they telecast, with MLB Network airing two Division Series games each year from the same league as Fox.

Both deals also include digital "TV Everywhere" rights to stream televised games and other MLB-related programming online and through mobile devices.

"This is a remarkable day for baseball," MLB commissioner Bud Selig said during a conference call to officially unveil the new contracts. "The value of these deals is a manifestation of how far this sport has come, and it's a reflection of how great a year we have had on the field."

According to Selig, "In 2014, [MLB teams] will get a huge increase. Everyone will then determine not only what to do with the money, but how it will impact ticket prices [and other logistics]."

Turner was the home of the Atlanta Braves (both under the auspices of Ted Turner) from 1973-2007, when the network underwent changes and signed a national deal with MLB to air Divisional Series playoff games. MLB and Fox have had an alliance since 1996.

"Fox and Turner have played a key role in our growth of baseball," Selig said during the conference call.

ESPN began broadcasting MLB games in 1990. Its deal greatly extends ESPN's reach across all platforms, including TV, radio, Internet and mobile, and also enabled the Disney-owned network to continue to have exclusive TV rights to such MLB All-Star Game-related events as the Home Run Derby and All-Star Legends & Celebrity Softball Game.

"In a season that saw increased attendance, having our best year now since 2008, we have a record high revenue, competitive balance is stronger than I could ever have dreamed, we're in the midst of a lot of labor peace, so it's only fitting that we announce the successful completion of our national television deals today," said Selig. "We've proven in the last 10 to 15 years that baseball is everything. The greatest manifestation of that is outside partners telling you how valuable it is."

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