Major League Baseball’s $12.4 Billion Bonanza Is Official

Major League Baseball MLB Logo - H 2012

Major League Baseball MLB Logo - H 2012

As expected, Fox retains the World Series in a deal ensuring it remains the dominant baseball provider through 2021, taking more rights with more money, while Turner expands digital rights.

Major League Baseball, the Fox Sports Media Group and Turner Broadcasting are entering into a new eight-year national media rights agreement that represents a 100 percent increase in the annual rights fees compared with the previous contract, according to an official announcement made Tuesday.

The deals with Fox, Turner and an earlier agreement with Turner are worth $12.4 billion over eight years to baseball, according to MLB commissioner Bud Selig, who added that the national revenue will be shared equally by all 30 teams.

“I have often said in recent years that we are living in the golden age of baseball and that the game has never been more popular,” said Selig. “But to see the unprecedented and historic commitment these networks have made to televising Major League Baseball for years to come is truly amazing.”

News about the deal leaked two weeks ago, but MLB and its broadcast partners revealed new details. Among other things, Fox has agreed to sell two of its division series games to the MLB Network, so baseball’s own service will have signature calling cards to help push cable operators to pay for the service.

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Fox and Turner are renewing deals, but to do so they had to beat out bids from NBC Sports, which has a new sports channel, and a bid that involved CBS Sports along with Turner.

Fox stepped up and took more rights for more money and continues to be the dominant baseball provider. Selig noted that by the time the new contracts end, Fox will have carried baseball for 25 years and Turner for 48 years.

The deals take effect in 2014 and run through 2021. As anticipated, Fox gets the most important package of rights: the World Series, the All-Star Game and one league championship series in addition to two division series games. 

The league championship series and division series will be shared by Fox and TBS (as well as the two games for MLB Network). Fox and Turner also get digital “TV Everywhere” rights to stream games and other MLB programming to mobile devices.

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Fox also doubles the number of regular-season national games it will air on Saturdays to 52, with 12 of those exclusive to Fox. They also get as many as 40 nonexclusive games that can be nationally distributed on another Fox channel, which is a reference to plans not yet announced for Fox to launch a national sports channel to compete with ESPN. It has been reported Speed Channel will become the new Fox Sports One.

David Levy, Turner’s president of sales, touted the expanded digital rights TBS acquired, even as it reduced the number of games it will carry. He said they will now have baseball on TV and the web, for mobile and on tablets. “This has added value to our portfolio,” he said.

On its Sunday games, Turner will no longer be subject to local blackouts but will air games side by side with local broadcasters who make deals with each team separately.

One team whose local rights will soon be in play is the Los Angeles Dodgers, who have been with Fox for a number of years. Fox is in an exclusive negotiating period, but if it can’t make a deal, Time Warner Cable and others are expected to enter negotiations.

Big recent rights deals for baseball nationally and locally means the Dodgers should expect a hefty fee increase for its new owners.

(New York- and Chicago-based Guggenheim Baseball Management, owner of the Dodgers, also is co-owner with Pluribus Capital Management of Prometheus Global Media, the parent company of THR.)

During a conference call Tuesday, Fox co-president Randy Freer declined to give details about plans for a national sports cable channel. He said it is still under consideration and if they don’t launch, the baseball games will appear on the company's other channels.

Other details revealed Tuesday include:

·      National games on Fox that were previously blacked out to MLB Extra Innings subscribers and MLB.TV viewers will be available beginning in 2014.

·      The MLB Network also has acquired rights the MLB All-Star Game Selection Show and SirusXM All-Star Futures Game.

·      Turner gets additional interactive rights including one to create companion and ancillary products related to TBS broadcast of regular-season and postseason games.