Six weeks ago we discussed here the implications of MLB negotiating new TV contracts, with up to $40 million in new national revenue going to each team as a possible outcome. Today the first domino has fallen, as Sports Business Journal’s John Ourand reports that ESPN and MLB are re-upping their deal.
The current deal calls for ESPN to pay $306 million per year ($10 million per team) to baseball for the rights to games on Sunday and Wednesday, occasional Monday nights, and immediate highlights and live look-ins on Baseball Tonight. Digital rights to select games were also added for $50 million per year. The new deal has ESPN paying $700 million per year ($23 million per team), which now includes digital and international rights along with domestic cable. The international rights piece is another coup, because it should clean up some rather disparate pieces. The “Worldwide Leader” will also get one wild-card playoff game per year as part of the deal.
Of course, this is ESPN we’re talking about, so there has to be a downside, and it’s that Bristol asked to carry more Yankees-Red Sox games (imagine that!). They got it. Now it can be written: ESPN pushed to expand their East Coast bias. Next thing you know they’ll have a Mark Sanchez-Tim Tebow reality show ready for Week 8 of the NFL season.
Remaining to negotiate are the deals for the Saturday Game of the Week (FOX), and the Sunday afternoon game (TBS). Both of those networks also have playoff series, so the stakes are just as high, even if the coverage is not as vast. NBC/Comcast wants in, and CBS is also in the running. Ourand thinks those rights will stay with their respective holders, so we’ll see about that.
As for the A’s, anything that can help the team keep players and start with a higher baseline payroll ($70-75 million), the better.