ESPN has inked an eight-year deal with MLB worth $5.6 billion, according to the Sports Business Journal. The astronomical numbers work out to roughly $700 million per year. If that number seems large – the current deal works out to roughly $306 million per year – it is by design: ESPN absolutely needed to overpay for MLB rights to keep all (or even some) their games from going to NBC.
Full details of the MLB rights deal haven’t been revealed, and NBC, Turner, and Fox are still bidding for Fox/TBS packages. Baseball clearly is following the NFL model – give a little bit to everyone so viewers everywhere can devour your product. (The NFL can be found on CBS, Fox, NBC and ESPN.) NBC is expected to get some baseball games, but the fact that ESPN keeps its Sunday, Monday and Wednesday night games is a big win for the network.
NBC is attempting to build a rival to ESPN, but is sorely lacking in one department: Content. NBC has Notre Dame football, the NFL, and is coming off an impressive (financially) Olympic games. But that isn’t nearly enough to build a network around. They need games.
Two other pertinent details in the ESPN deal:
ESPN also will carry one Wild Card playoff game … ESPN also picked up rights to carry games featuring more popular teams, like the Yankees and Red Sox, more frequently.