Turner pitching playoff baseball

Gets one LCS starting next year

NEW YORK -- Turner Broadcasting said Tuesday that it has reached agreement with Major League Baseball to carry one of the League Championship Series beginning next year, the first time baseball's LCS will be on cable.

Terms of the deal weren't announced, but Turner is believed to be shelling out $40 million-$45 million a year for the LCS. It's a strict rights deal; there is no revenue-sharing component. There also is no digital-media component to the package; MLB's own platform, MLB.com, has had an extensive subscription-only digital-rights package since 2001.

The deal is in addition to a package announced at the All-Star Game in July that gave TBS exclusive rights to the League Divisional Series starting next year plus a Sunday afternoon national game beginning in 2008.

TBS will kick off the new package with coverage of the National League Championship Series in October 2007. Fox, baseball's other postseason partner, will have the American League Championship Series as well as the World Series. TBS and Fox will alternate the LCS until 2013, the term of the deal, while Fox always will carry the World Series.

ESPN, which until this year had the League Divisional Series with Fox, will continue to carry regular-season games, including its "Sunday Night Baseball."

For Turner, the deal caps a 30-year history with Major League Baseball that began with the Superstation WTBS televising Atlanta Braves games nationwide. That relationship will come to an end next year to make way for Turner's national package. It also gives Turner another jewel in what Turner Sports president David Levy said was a championship-level package of sports in the NBA, NASCAR, golf and college football.

It also is a historic moment for TV sports, which over the past several years has moved several properties from broadcast television to cable. It began in 2003 with the NBA All-Star Game and conference finals on TBS and continued this year with "Monday Night Football" moving from its 35-year home on ABC to ESPN. Next month, the NFL also will have regular-season games on cable with its own NFL Network.

"Ultimately we believe at Turner that the television landscape has changed, with the lines between cable and broadcast virtually nonexistent," Levy said.

Despite generally lower ratings associated with big-ticket sporting events moving from broadcast to cable, baseball executives don't think ratings will suffer in the switch.

"We're not willing to concede lower ratings," MLB president Bob DuPuy said. His boss, commissioner Bud Selig, said that baseball was just responding to a changing television landscape.

Most if not all of the games will appear on TBS rather than TNT, though Levy said that games would appear on TNT if there are scheduling conflicts.

Turner has had preliminary discussions with talent and behind-the-scenes people, but no announcements were made Tuesday.

MLB executive vp Tim Brosnan said that baseball was impressed with Turner's pre- and postgame productions in other sports.

"We expect Turner to produce some really interesting programming for our fans come postseason next year," he said.
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