In early 2011, now-ESPN president
John Skipper tried to reassure investors concerned that even wealthy ESPN could struggle with an increasingly expensive sports rights market. "Let me be overt ... we will continue to make thoughtful
decisions on what rights we can afford," he said.
Since then, ESPN has inked deals with a slew of college conferences and extended its deal for “Monday Night Football." Today, the cabler said it had agreed to keep Major League Baseball through 2021.
The deal marks a 100% increase in ESPN’s annual rights fee, according to MLB. Reports have the deal worth a total of $5.6 billion. Sports Business Journal first reported the new arrangement.
The contract will keep games on ESPN on Mondays and Wednesdays and a nationally exclusive game on Sunday nights. ESPN will be able to air up to 90 live games a year, and gains rights to one of the two league Wild Card games.
Expansion of other content, such as with “Baseball Tonight,” is also part of the deal, as is the addition of six one-hour specials created by MLB’s production arm.
The deal also includes radio rights and TV and radio rights internationally. ESPN began televising baseball games in 1990.