/// ESPN Renews MLB Rights Deal Through 2021

August 28, 2012  |  Media Week

As the Book of Revelations would have it, 666 is the number of the beast. Tack six zeroes on the end and it’s also the annual fee ESPN will pay for the rights to continue airing Major League Baseball games. According to a number of sources, ESPN has clinched a new eight-year pact with MLB, effectively doubling the $2.65 billion investment it made with its current agreement. Given the estimated value of the new contract ($5.35 billion) and the duration (the deal expires in 2021), the annual rights fee comes to a tidy $666 million. Along with its ongoing Sunday Night Baseball exclusivity, ESPN will continue to air games on Monday and Wednesdays. And while the 2005-13 deal did not include any postgame air rights, the new agreement includes one Wild Card game and the rights to any potential regular-season tie-breaker games. As one would expect given a deal of this magnitude, the new rights package includes everything from peanuts to Crackerjack: linear TV, digital, international and radio. ESPN also has secured the rights to develop a greater volume of shoulder programming (highlights, anthology content); moreover, in keeping with its aggressive digital strategy, look for Bristol to roll out a host of exclusive MLB material for tablet devices, smart phones and laptop/desktop computers. All told, ESPN will have increased its live-game coverage by a factor of 15 percent—from 78 to as many as 90 contests per season. Naturally, a boost in baseball tonnage translates to a greater load of in-game inventory. ESPN has televised MLB games since April 1990. The network invested a grand total of $400 million for its first four-year rights package. Meanwhile, as ESPN closes out its second blockbuster rights deal in a year—in September, the sports giant re-upped with the NFL in an eight-year, $15.5 billion pact—baseball’s other media partners are still negotiating the terms of their own renewals. Valued at $257 million per season, Fox’s current broadcasting deal expires at the end of the 2013 campaign. (Fox is looking to retain the most high-profile MLB properties, a roster that includes the All-Star Game, a League Championship Series and the World Series.) Turner Sports’ TBS is also negotiating, although the cable network is not as far along in the process as is Fox. Sources said the broadcaster could finalize its renewal before the Labor Day holiday weekend. TBS’ eight-year deal also expires next year. The Turner net pays an annual fee of $148.6 million for its package of non-exclusive Sunday afternoon games and the Playoff suite (the AL and NL Division Series and alternating AL/NL League Championship Series). While the legacy partners work to get their respective deals done, another network is looking to get back into the game after a 12-year absence

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ESPN Renews MLB Rights Deal Through 2021

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