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ESPN signs an eight-year, $5.6 billion deal to keep baseball

Aug 28, 2012, 9:33 AM EDT

old TV

We talked about lucrative local TV rights yesterday. Let’s talk national: ESPN just agreed to pay Major League Baseball nearly double what it’s paying now to keep baseball rights through 2021:

ESPN has agreed to a deal that locks down MLB rights into the next decade, according to several sources. The eight-year deal is worth $5.6B (an average of $700M per year), approximately doubling the nearly $306M ESPN currently pays MLB every year for domestic TV rights.

That includes digital, radio and, for the first time, the playoffs: one wild card game. Otherwise the deal is basically the same: Sunday Night Baseball and Monday and Wednesday night games.

The current deals with ESPN, Fox and TBS are in place through the end of the 2013 season. As the New York Times reported in July, there is a frenzy afoot, with those three outlets still wanting to keep their games, plus NBC wanting to get in on the action. Clearly those remaining will be in frenzied bidding for the Saturday and Sunday afternoon games, the postseason and any other national products that may be added over and above what exists now.

That’s a recipe for skyrocketing rights fees. And we just saw the first rocket launched.

UPDATE: Putting this money in perspective. Short version: windfall.

  1. 18thstreet - Aug 28, 2012 at 9:42 AM

    The players are overpaid!

    Wait, wrong thread.

    • sabatimus - Aug 28, 2012 at 11:12 AM

      Hahahaha well done! I was thinking of a certain due-to-expire CBA myself.

  2. kopy - Aug 28, 2012 at 9:44 AM

    It’s great to know I’ll always be able to watch Yankees/Red Sox matchups no matter where I am in the country or how long the Boston’s rebuilding process is.

    • sictransitchris - Aug 28, 2012 at 9:50 AM

      Yanks fans aren’t too fond of those games always being on ESPN either.

      • mississippimusicman - Aug 28, 2012 at 10:09 AM

        It’s a simple recipe: take the nation’s largest TV market, and hold them hostage. Want to watch every single game your team plays? Fine. Pay for cable. The combined population of the two teams’ territories has to be the largest pairing in terms of population (I’m too lazy to make a spreadsheet, so feel free to correct me), and if by continuing to hijack every Sunday game those two play against each other, they ensure the largest possible market for their product. It sucks for the fans, but corporations tend not to care about much besides profit (which is why they’re in business in the first place).

      • The Dangerous Mabry - Aug 28, 2012 at 10:14 AM

        ESPN3 means never paying for cable to watch Sunday Night Baseball.

      • kopy - Aug 28, 2012 at 10:16 AM

        Market size, in order: New York, LA, Chicago, Philly, Dallas, SF Bay Area, Boston. Worth noting that Philly and Dallas, like Boston, have only 1 team.

      • sportsdrenched - Aug 28, 2012 at 10:33 AM

        @ The Dangerous Mabry

        How long you think ESPN3 will be free. That’s how I watch ESPN now too. And I’m just wondering. Eventually we’ll have to pony up for that.

      • ajcardsfan - Aug 28, 2012 at 11:21 AM

        Kopy, got a source? I’m not questioning your post, I’m just curious as to the numbers

      • kopy - Aug 28, 2012 at 10:18 PM

        Probably too late to be seen, but I just searched for a tv market size ranking. This isn’t even the one I found this morning, but it’s the same result:

      • themajorleagueblog - Aug 29, 2012 at 5:19 AM

        You already are paying for ESPN3 in your bill from your ISP. They add extra costs in your bill. Look at your bill before and after ESPN3 was available to you.

    • Kleinz 57 - Aug 28, 2012 at 10:02 AM

      I get what you mean, but those games do grab a ton of eyeballs…

  3. sportsdrenched - Aug 28, 2012 at 9:55 AM

    Baseball is Dead, Dead I tell you! No one watches that.


    PFT Commenter

    • sabatimus - Aug 28, 2012 at 2:02 PM

      The last part should read “PFT Commenter Whose Post Didn’t Get Lost or Otherwise Deleted for No Reason”.

    • wyobrad - Aug 28, 2012 at 3:44 PM

      Love the post! Was reading a book that was saying many were predicting the death of baseball in the 1960’s due to the growing popularity of the NFL. I guess someone forget to tell fans over the last unprecedented 8 years of baseball attendance that their sport has been dead for 4 decades. I love football but would rather watch it on tv. Nothing beats a evening spent at a baseball game.

  4. spudatx - Aug 28, 2012 at 10:02 AM

    ESPN is getting back into covering sporting events? Retro! I was getting sick of their TMZ approach anyway.

  5. icanspeel - Aug 28, 2012 at 10:25 AM

    One has to wonder if now ESPN will spread some of the added cost to subscribers of cable, satellite, etc to offset what they paid. If they aren’t making the money back from advertisers, they are getting it somewhere.

    • florida727 - Aug 28, 2012 at 11:26 AM

      Have a friend that is in a pretty prominent position with one cable system. He tells me, in its simplest terms, ESPN will tell the cable providers how much they need to charge for their suite of networks to be accessible to the cable system’s viewership. The cable system will push back and “negotiations” will, as always, come down to the 11th hour, with ESPN threatening to pull their programming from the cable system, before they agree on some middle ground. Bottom line: your cable bill will increase. Somebody has to provide the difference in costs like this, and it won’t all come from advertising revenues.

      The real question is: where does it stop? What’s the ceiling? If it’s $5.6 billion this time around, is the next contract going to be for $11.3 billion? Heck, why not $13.8 billion? When is enough, enough?

      • 18thstreet - Aug 28, 2012 at 11:30 AM

        In a free market economy, the answer of when “enough” comes reveals itself eventually.

      • Marty - Aug 28, 2012 at 11:59 AM

        I hope when this ESPN deal expires in 2021, cable subscriptions will be a relic of the past. Perhaps by then ipTV will be ubiquitous and we’ll have a better chance at in market MLBTV, or a la carte channel subscriptions.

      • sabatimus - Aug 28, 2012 at 2:04 PM

        A la carte will never happen. There are just too many channels that nobody would EVER pay for that have to be included in packages in order to grease some company’s palm.

  6. Marty - Aug 28, 2012 at 10:59 AM

    Sounds like baseball is on the decline.

  7. willclarkgameface - Aug 28, 2012 at 11:04 AM

    This is bad news for MLB fans. ESPN is built around the NFL and the only reason they are choosing to continue coverage is so that the “world-wide leader” isn’t caught with their baseball pants down.

    I have hated ESPN baseball coverage for a very long time and to be quite honest, the last time I thought it was the best thing on the planet was when I was 11 and it was their first year of heavy coverage: 1 Sunday night game, Tuesday night double header, Wednesday night baseball, and Friday night doubleheader.

    AND they used to have a ton of games on holidays (Memorial Day, 4th of July, and Labor Day). Now nothing.

    Who watches ESPN for baseball?

    • 18thstreet - Aug 28, 2012 at 11:31 AM

      I think ESPN mostly does a better job than Fox does. Though Fox, I think, has the best cameramen anywhere, which is worth something.

      • kevinbnyc - Aug 28, 2012 at 1:11 PM

        Fox’s camera work is great. But its largely overshadowed by their awful commentary (cough…Joe Buck…)

      • sabatimus - Aug 28, 2012 at 2:05 PM

        McCarver’s worse. Joe these days just looks like a guy who spends his evenings sleeping in a cardboard box.

  8. vallewho - Aug 28, 2012 at 11:32 AM

    Sad day for baseball loving people.

  9. ireportyoudecide - Aug 28, 2012 at 11:52 AM

    Yes!! Now they will charge less for concessions and tickets becuase they will be making more money from T.V. This is a great day for baseball fans.

    • natstowngreg - Aug 28, 2012 at 12:04 PM

      + 1000 for excellent use of sarcasm.

  10. randygnyc - Aug 28, 2012 at 12:16 PM

    I hope Fox loses out. Dear G-D, please!

    • 18thstreet - Aug 28, 2012 at 2:58 PM

      Fox seems to have a weird business model that says that they’ll use the MLB playoffs to launch their advertising of their other shows. I’m amazed by how few ads they sell, compared with the promotion of their entertainment division.

      Far be it from me to tell Rupert Murdoch how to make money, since he seems to be very good at it. But I’m amazed at the strategy, which seems to treat the MLB playoffs as a loss leader.

  11. shelbydawkins - Aug 28, 2012 at 1:00 PM

    Their announcers suck, They’re all gay.

    • sabatimus - Aug 28, 2012 at 2:06 PM

      I wasn’t aware of their sexual preference. How did you get that information?

      • 18thstreet - Aug 28, 2012 at 2:55 PM

        Well, we know Harold Reynolds was fired for being a heterosexual. But I think Shelby’s right.

  12. drbordo - Aug 28, 2012 at 1:14 PM

    @FL727….Common knowledge that ESPN sets the fees and schedules that cable/satellite have no choice to but to accept. In turn, the price increases by ESPN is passed on to subscribers. Time for Anti-Trust investigation. ESPN has become a virtual monopoly.

    • themajorleagueblog - Aug 29, 2012 at 5:22 AM

      The problem is, they haven’t become a monopoly

      ESPN has the rights to

      MLB has a deal with ESPN, FOX and Turner Broadcasting. NFL has deals with CBS, FOX and ESPN. NBA has deals with Turner Broadcasting and ESPN. NASCAR has deals with Turner Broadcasting, FOX and ESPN. EPL has deals with FOX and ESPN. MLS has deals with NBC and ESPN. NCAA has rights with every network I listed.

  13. djroba - Aug 28, 2012 at 2:28 PM

    There goes my cable bill. Maybe I can drop to the QVC tier and just listen to the games on the radio.

  14. bovice23 - Aug 28, 2012 at 2:30 PM

    The Dodgers should have traded for Tebow, ESPN would have paid a couple trillion.

  15. catcher50 - Aug 28, 2012 at 2:31 PM

    @kopy…your list is wrong. If you are talking about single market area, 4 is Dallas/Ft. Worth, 5 is Houston (and Sugarland, home of the Skeeters), 6 is Phil, and 7 is DC. Boston is 10 & SF is 11.

    If you’re discussing combined areas, DC/Balto is 4, Boston, etc. is 5 and SF, Oak, San Jose is six.

    Source is the US Census Bureau.

  16. Banjo - Aug 28, 2012 at 2:55 PM

    They’re going to regret this one in a couple years….

    Baseball is dying. It’s not meant to be a spectator sport.

    • wyobrad - Aug 28, 2012 at 3:39 PM

      You do realize that this sport that is not meant to be a spectator sport has just seen its 8 best years for attendance in MLB history don’t you? This year is looking to be no exception. More spectators are coming out to watch then ever before and local tv deals are being signed for record amounts. But who am I to say that baseball is not dying. I guess those 70-80 million fans buying tickets aren’t really spectators.

  17. themajorleagueblog - Aug 29, 2012 at 5:15 AM

    Personally, I’d like to see NBC take Saturday afternoon from FOX. Not because of baseball reasons, but because it is so tragic seeing them lose properties left and right

  18. 66orioles - Aug 29, 2012 at 1:43 PM

    Just hope this doesn’t lead to more blackouts on MLB TV as does Fox with their Saturday afternoon broadcasts which are shown regionally but are blacked out nationally.

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