TBS Snags Rights to Portion of Baseball Playoffs

Series Package Last Piece of MLB's TV-Rights Agreement

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Turner Broadcasting and Major League Baseball have struck an agreement under which TBS gets exclusive rights to one of the two league-championship series beginning in 2007 and running through 2013.
TBS, which started airing Atlanta Braves games nationally in 1977, has added to its package with MLB.
TBS, which started airing Atlanta Braves games nationally in 1977, has added to its package with MLB. Credit: AP

The deal is an expansion of TBS' new baseball package, announced earlier this year, in which the cable network has the rights to all MLB Division Series games starting in 2007, as well as any potential tie-breaker games.

A $60 million deal
Financial terms were not disclosed, but executives close to the deal said MLB would receive about $60 million under the seven-year agreement.

Atlanta-based Turner Broadcasting, which shocked the baseball world in 1977 by airing Atlanta Braves games nationwide, is dropping that package in 2008 and will instead televise a 26-game Sunday afternoon Game of the Week package.

TBS will televise the National League Championship Series beginning in 2007, and will show the American League Championship Series in even-numbered years. Fox owns the rights to the ALCS in 2007, '09, '11 and '13, and gets the NLCS in even-numbered years. The World Series, All-Star game and Saturday afternoon telecasts remain on Fox through 2013.

More games on Saturdays
Fox, which is increasing its Saturday games from 18 to 26 in 2007, is paying about $1.75 billion for the seven-year deal that starts next season. TBS is paying about $1.2 billion for its portion of the rights agreement.

ESPN last year signed an eight-year, $2.4 billion extension of its MLB deal that began with the 2006 season, and the network will continue to televise games on Sunday, Monday and Wednesday nights.

ESPN, TBS and Versus (formerly OLN) were the three networks reportedly bidding for the alternating league-championship-series package, the final piece of MLB's TV-rights agreements.

"We expect Turner to produce some really interesting programs for our fans come the postseason next year," said Tim Brosnan, MLB's exec VP-business.

Overlap on TNT
TBS, which is in 90 million of the country's 110 million homes with TV, will put any overlap divisional series games on TNT. But neither cable network should be unfamiliar to viewers, especially sports fans. It was nearly 30 years ago that media mogul Ted Turner began taking games featuring the Atlanta Braves, which he also owned at the time, and putting them nationwide on his TBS superstation. Before that, baseball fans were accustomed to watching only their local-market teams, and one national Game of the Week on NBC or ABC.

It stunned the other owners, many of whom thought it would be the death knell of the sport, said Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig, who owned the Milwaukee Brewers at the time. "Every Major League meeting for a while, all we heard about was the superstation. But in fact, he helped the sport. Ted's enlightened television policy didn't hurt anything at all. He played a great role in the maturing of television and Major League Baseball."
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