Dan Shulman, ESPN’s No. 1 baseball announcer, will be a free agent when his contract expires later this year, and early indications are that the Worldwide Leader is going to have heavy competition from Fox – and perhaps NBC Sports – to retain the Canadian who has been with the network since 2001.
Whether or not NBC gets in the hunt hinges upon what happens with MLB’s next TV contract, which expires
this next year (but a new deal is expected to be inked this summer). If NBC’s goal is to chip away at ESPN’s dominance, acquiring baseball would be a crucial step. This, from the SBJ in June:
Over the past 18 months, NBC has been at the table for almost every sports rights auction. It spent $4.3 billion for rights to the 2014 through 2020 Olympic Games and $187 million for rights to the NHL for 10 years. It lost Wimbledon rights to ESPN and wasn’t able to wrest Pac-12 rights away from Fox and ESPN.
If NBC snags MLB, then the guess here is that ESPN will certainly lose its best baseball announcer. If NBC can’t get MLB, then the battle for Shulman will be between ESPN and Fox, the latter of which already has an attack plan, according to a source.
Fox will pose this question to Shulman: Would you rather be the No. 1 announcer at ESPN, where MLB is really only a priority in July and August, after the NBA season and before the NFL season, or the No. 2 guy at Fox behind Joe Buck, where you can call postseason games? Shulman is also a college hoops and NBA announcer at ESPN, and while Fox doesn’t have the NBA, it does have Pac-12 college basketball games.
One other aspect to consider – money. ESPN has shown this summer that it won’t overpay for talent – it let Michelle Beadle walk to NBC, and Erin Andrews to Fox. Obviously Shulman’s value as a primary announcer is completely different than that Beadle and Andrews, but what’s becoming clear is ESPN’s rivals are willing to overpay for talent, something you may be seeing a lot more of this summer.
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