ESPN and Major League Baseball have reached an eight-year regular-season agreement, highlighted by the continuation of ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball series with additional, exclusive team appearances. ESPN’s new Monday Night Baseball franchise will mostly co-exist with local carriers, meaning ESPN will have virtually no blackouts for these two franchises. In addition, a weekly Wednesday baseball game and Baseball Tonight, with its in-progress highlights and live cut-ins, continue on ESPN or ESPN2. The agreement, which runs from 2006-2013, was announced today by ESPN and ABC Sports President George Bodenheimer and Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig
ESPN and MLB had already reached long-term agreements covering rights across ESPN’s extensive multimedia assets, including ESPN Radio; ESPN.com; ESPN Deportes.com; ESPN360, the company’s growing interactive and customizable broadband service; ESPN Mobile, ESPN’s recently announced mobile phone service; and the company’s wireless content licensing business. Among the highlights of those agreements: ESPN has exclusive national terrestrial radio rights to regular season games and every playoff match-up through the end of the World Series, ESPN has rights to baseball video highlights on all of its platforms and ESPN Mobile and ESPN360 have cut-in video rights to baseball telecasts on ESPN networks. ESPN and MLB.com share exclusive rights to sell the MLB.com subscription packages MLB.TV and All Access, and ESPN has the exclusive right to sell advertising associated with those packages.
“This caps a series of comprehensive, ‘new world’ agreements, clearly demonstrating that ESPN and Major League Baseball share the same vision – to serve fans through the highest quality content and cutting edge technology,” Bodenheimer said. “Today, we have significantly enhanced the value of our summer cornerstone television programming with increased team appearances on Sunday nights, extensive blackout lift rights on Monday nights and more game and studio flexibility to showcase the great sport of baseball like no other media company.”
Commissioner Selig added, “On behalf of Major League Baseball, I am pleased that we will continue our excellent relationship with ESPN for another eight years. It is yet another manifestation of baseball’s increasing popularity and illustrates what I have said many times, that this is the golden era of our sport. We are dedicated to bringing Major League Baseball to as many fans as possible through a strong lineup of media partners. Enhancing our partnership with ESPN is an important first step in that process. ESPN has been and will continue to be instrumental in the renaissance of the game as it settles into the 21st Century.”
The revitalized Monday night series, combined with Monday Night Football also beginning in 2006 and college basketball’s Big Monday, provides ESPN destination Monday night programming year-round. Key details of the MLB agreement announced today include:
- Up to 80 regular-season telecasts per year;
- No blackout restrictions on exclusive Sunday Night Baseball; Monday Night Baseball, with ESPN mostly coexisting with local carriers
- Up to five appearances per team per year on the exclusive Sunday Night Baseball series, up from 11 over three years;
- Daily Baseball Tonight programs – one of ESPN’s most popular series — including the continued right to show in-progress highlights and live cut-ins;
- MLB Home Run Derby, ESPN’s highest-rated program of the summer and one of cable’s best, and additional All-Star programming;
- Continuation of season-long Wednesday baseball on ESPN and ESPN2
- A new afternoon batting practice program, generally from the site of ESPN’s Monday night telecast;
- For the first time, the 11 p.m. ET SportsCenter will present a nightly Baseball Tonight update featuring in-progress highlights;
- Select games and MLB All-Star events on ESPN2 throughout the season;
- 10 Spring Training games and MLB Opening Day coverage;
- Telecast rights for ESPN HD, ESPN2 HD, ESPN Deportes and ESPN International;
- Ability to include MLB programming as part of the delivery of the ESPN networks via cable, satellite and other new or developing technologies, such as cell phones and wireless devices;
- Archival footage and game programming and Instant Classic rights for ESPN Classic.
ESPN and Major League Baseball In July, ESPN New Media and Major League Baseball Advanced Media announced an eight-year agreement through 2012 that covers content and sales rights across ESPN’s new media assets. ESPN Radio, which has been broadcasting MLB since 1998, last year extended its agreement through the conclusion of the 2010 World Series.
ESPN has televised Major League Baseball since 1990, ESPN2 since 1996.