MLB's current deals with ESPN, Fox and TBS expire after the 2013 season, and sources said all three networks are likely to be involved in the next round of negotiations, which are expected to begin this off-season. These people said NBC Universal and CBS are also interested in joining the talks.
The dramatic climax to this season's World Series between the Texas Rangers and St. Louis Cardinals, coupled with the intense demand among networks for programing viewers watch live, should give MLB strong negotiating leverage in the next round of talks.
Ratings for this year's World Series, broadcast on Fox, were hardly blockbuster but still averaged 16.6 million viewers, up about 19 percent from last year, driven by a Game Six extra-inning comeback victory for the Cardinals that stoked interest in the team's Game 7 victory last week.
Analysts expect the price of a new deal to increase by 10 percent or more from the league's current contracts, which are estimated to be worth around $900 million annually.
The interest in baseball in not due to the World Series alone, however, as advertisers exhibited a strong appetite for commercial time throughout baseball's lengthy 182-game regular season and two rounds of league playoff series.
About NBC's fears in regards to the baseball postseason potentially interfering with Sunday Night Football, they could easily work it around by having games move over to the NBC Sports Network (currently Versus) just like TBS uses TNT as a backup for their baseball coverage. Also, Major League Baseball can easily work around the schedule for the World Series. In recent years, the World Series has started on I think a Tuesday or Wednesday rather than on the weekends.
NBC really has nothing to lose in regards to their prime time schedule. It's not like back in 1997, when they covered the World Series and the then West Coast President complained that the World Series was messing up their then highly rated "Must See TV" line-up. I think I read somewhere that they're still struggling in the 18-49 demographic this season. Networks need to to understand that major sporting events could have a positive effect by providing a major promotional tool for said shows.
I actually wouldn't be surprised if CBS did something with Turner. TBS produced two specials (one for the All-Star Break and another for the late season pennant drive) this year that aired on the CBS Sports Spectacular. The last time that CBS had baseball back in the early '90s, they wound up losing about $500 million after paying $1 billion for exclusive broadcasting rights (over ABC and NBC).
I forgot to mention that CBS doesn't really have a whole lot of major or note worthy sports programming from around the end of March-beginning of April (like right after the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament and the Masters) until September (when college football, the US Open tennis tournament, and the NFL starts).
Please let Fox lose baseball. No more Buck and McCarver.
The problem is, the sport compared to Football or Basketball just isn't that exciting, for that i think it's hard to find really good announcers. You almost need like a Gus johnson to "up" the intensity
There is zero chance MLB will let NBC move the World Series to Versus. When ESPN moved Sunday Night Baseball to ESPN 2, MLB got all up in arms about it.
For ABC and CBS it's easy to bump college football for 1 or 2 weeks. That's not an issue. If ABC gets it, college football will be pushed to ESPN, and they will be forced to like it.
I can't see ABC/ESPN getting shut out of the playoffs again.
Fox, meanwhile, there is zero chance they'll let it go.
I highly doubt that ABC will get MLB in the foreseeable future. It's in the past few years (at least, since 2006), become pretty apparent if not obvious that Disney and ESPN has tried to marginalize major sports programming on ABC. One of the big reasons (well, besides not being at the mercy of affiliates and being easier to make a profit on subcable fees than simply advertisers) why "ABC Sports" in the traditional sense was done away with was in order to not have to deal with union contracts anymore (which ESPN doesn't have to face). The powers that be at Disney (at least from what I read in that ESPN book from earlier this year) believe that since that have stuff like Dancing with the Stars, Desperate Housewives, Grey's Anatomy and what not, they really don't need NFL programming on ABC anymore.
Reuters in October quoted analysts as predicting that MLB might see a 10 percent increase on the $900 million the league has in national TV rights deals currently. Those predictions didn’t include the expanded postseason.
Baseball’s deals with the three networks were struck in 2005-06, before NBC Sports launched its national network, before Turner joined with CBS to win the NCAA men’s basketball broadcast rights, before word came that FOX Sports is planning a national network, and before digital media considerations became such a major factor in rights negotiations.
Josh Krulewitz, ESPN vice president of communications, declined to offer details about the network’s plans while issuing the following statement: "ESPN has been presenting extensive MLB coverage for many years, and we look forward to productive discussions with the league about our future together."
Turner was successful in getting the rights to playoffs in the last negotiations. A Turner spokesman declined specific comment but said in a statement: “We have been partners with MLB for more than 35 years and value our long-standing relationship with the League. We continue to have productive conversations with MLB on how to enhance and build upon the league’s new playoff format and capitalize on the continuing popularity of baseball, its teams and players.”
FOX vice president of communications Lou D’Ermilio said the network is interested in the additional playoff games. “We’ve got a great, longstanding relationship with MLB, and if these playoffs games become available, we’d be very interested in exploring the possibility of presenting them on a FOX outlet.”
Giving MLB additional leverage is the emergence of NBC Sports as a likely bidder. Network officials there did not respond to requests for comment.
Two other factors will be significant in this round of bidding: digital broadcast rights and cable pairings, including partnerships with the MLB Network.
TV Everywhere is especially an issue when it comes to ESPN’s negotiations. ESPN has TV Everywhere deals with companies that represent about 40 percent of the country’s pay-TV subscribers. In addition, ESPN has TV Everywhere deals with every sports league with which it is currently under contract.
MLB also will have to determine which networks might work best with its own MLB Network. Berke said the MLB Network makes this round of negotiations very different from those in the past.
“They can serve as an outlet for one or more of these packages,” he said. “For the new two-day series, it might be worthwhile to put it on MLB Network. In order to profit, they’d raise [cable] subscriber fees substantially. If you’re FOX or Turner, you’re bidding against Baseball, essentially.”