MLB Completes Deals, Fox And Turner Share Championship Baseball Series

Major League Baseball has completed all its upcoming TV baseball deals, with a seven-year agreement to have Turner Broadcasting air part of the League Championship Series starting next season.

Fox had aired both League Championship Series exclusively. Now it will be sharing with Turner, which will air one series per year. Turner will get the National League Championship Series in 2007, 2009, 2011 and 2013, and the American League Championship Series in 2008, 2010, and 2012.

"This made a great deal of sense to us," said Bud Selig, commissioner of Major League Baseball, during a phone press conference. "They [Turner] have the whole division series and now one of the LCS." Concerning license right fees, which weren't disclosed in the announcement, Selig added: "The economics were what we wanted."

Media executives estimate the LCS Turner deal to be between $50 million and $70 million per year.

From this post-season deal, Turner hopes to gain new ad clients that are MLB league sponsors--those who haven't bought or have bought minimal TV schedules on Turner's cable entertainment networks, TNT and TBS, said David Levy, president, Turner Sports.



"This makes Turner's regular season package more valuable," says Neal Pilson, president of sports marketing agency Pilson Communications. "Packaging it with the post-season will allow it to get its regular season rates up."

Part of the earlier announced deal was that starting in 2008, Turner Sports will air 26 nonexclusive Sunday games. (Concluding its long run, TBS will end its 30-plus-year association when it airs the Atlanta Braves games at the end of the 2007 season).

The deal for the divisional series and now one championship series a year will make those Sunday nonexclusive games--generally lower-rated games--more attractive.

In an earlier deal, MLB awarded the early-round playoff divisional series to Turner exclusively. For the last six years of the current contract, ESPN and Fox had split the divisional series. This year, ratings for those playoffs and the LCS games have been substantially down from a year ago.

Some networks have lost money under this arrangement, including primary TV provider Fox. Program analysts say the network has lost more than $200 million over the course of its six-year $2.5 billion contract. For its new seven-year deal, Fox will continue to air regular season games and all World Series.

When asked whether Major League Baseball was worried about lower ratings as more games move to cable, Bob DuPuy, president/COO of Major League Baseball, said: "We are not willing to concede to that yet."

Selig also said there is no timetable for a proposed Major League Baseball cable network. "It's something that is under consideration and review."

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