Three months after Turner Sports first hashed out the terms of its new media-rights deal with Major League Baseball, the seven-year extension is now officially locked in. Under the language of the pact, which runs through the 2028 season, Turner will pay MLB an average fee of $535 million per year for the rights to carry an expanded suite of live games.
Turner, which airs its MLB coverage on the basic-cable network TBS, has agreed to a 65% increase in its rights payments, which over the course of the seven years will add up to $3.75 billion. In exchange for the extra dough, TBS will expand its MLB coverage to a full-season rotation (under the current deal, the network airs a 13-game package that starts in early July and runs through late September) and will pick up more postseason games.
TBS also plans to shift its weekly MLB telecast from Sunday to Tuesday nights. The network will launch a new studio show featuring Ernie Johnson, Pedro Martinez, Curtis Granderson and Jimmy Rollins. Johnson is best known for steering Inside the NBA, the flagship hoops show that airs on TBS sibling TNT.
In addition to its coverage of one of the two League Championship Series, Turner will carry one Wild Card game and two Divisions Series—thereby giving it the rights to televise more playoff games than any other network.
Along with its beefed-up TV package, Turner has secured a significant digital allowance from MLB, establishing a TV Everywhere-based option that will allow the network to stream live games via any number of WarnerMedia platforms. In keeping with the cross-platform elements of the deal, Bleacher Report will have greater wherewithal to offer in-game highlights and other video extras.
That TBS will now air a full season of MLB action rather than start at the midway point should go a long way toward making its coverage more compelling to fans and advertisers; moreover, a 26-date slate will give the Turner broadcast crew a lot more reps behind the mic.
The deal, which was formally announced this morning, comes nearly two years after Fox re-upped with MLB to the tune of $5.1 billion, or approximately $728.6 million per season. Fox, whose relationship with MLB goes back to 1996, broadcasts the World Series and All-Star Game and shares coverage of the League Championship Series with TBS. (This year Fox will handle the NLCS while Turner fields the ALCS.)
With MLB’s postseason partners locked in for another multi-year stretch, the last piece of the media puzzle rests in re-upping with ESPN. Talks between the league and the network are ongoing, but given the way the October baseball spoils have already been divvied up, there’s not much leeway for ESPN to expand its own playoff coverage. The cable giant currently airs one Wild Card Game.
Turner Sports has been in bed with baseball nearly 50 years, or since Ted Turner picked up the rights to broadcast the Atlanta Braves on the local channel that would evolve into the SuperStation TBS. The company began airing a national baseball window and a postseason MLB package in 2007.