A new player is emerging in the race for MLB rights...CBS. The network is teaming with Turner in a bid for the MLB rights package currently being split with Fox, much like they do with NCAA basketball rights according to an SBJ report. Fox is also still involved in negotiations, and their bid is contingent on the creation of a national, 24 hour Fox Sports channel.
Based on the way negotiations are going right now, it looks as if only one of these rights providers will be standing alongside ESPN as MLB's broadcast rights partner. Both entities are pitching the idea to MLB of combining the packages, including all of the playoffs, and letting one conglomerate run everything. I actually think that's better for MLB, because it can get rather sloppy when wondering what series is on TBS and what series is on Fox come playoff time. The entry from CBS into the negotiations is a huge surprise considering CBS hasn't broadcasted MLB games since 1993.
Anyway, the details of the opening offers are rather similar to what each network is doing currently. Fox's offer has the World Series and most of the League Championship Series on the main network, while the Division Series and a solid majority of regular series games will be aired on the rumored Fox Sports national cable channel. The Turner/CBS offer will have just the World Series, portions of the LCS, and the All-Star Game on CBS, while everything else is on TBS.
Because of the nature of the MLB playoffs, it's nearly impossible for every playoff game to be aired on network television. Fox and CBS affiliates have local news to worry about during night games, and there are just a few more MLB playoff games than NFL playoff games, which both networks air yearly.
I can also understand the hesitancy MLB has with both parties. Would CBS use Turner broadcasters for their World Series, none of which are really a national exclusive voice, or use their own broadcasters, which could end poorly considering the network's lack of baseball programming in recent years? Would CBS/Turner also move too many regular season games to cable for MLB's liking? As for Fox, does MLB feel like it's time for a change after 15 years plus with the same partner? On the cable side, would MLB want to bet heavily on Fox's new sports channel instead of a trusted entity like Turner?
Where's NBC in this whole mess? Well, they've apparently fallen into a third place role behind both of the incumbents, and are apparently a long shot to win a bid on any rights. Not getting baseball would be a huge blow for the network.
I'd expect a resolution to this by the end of September, and my prediction is for Fox to win the rights. They have too much clout and experience broadcasting baseball nationally that they'll do whatever they can to keep and expand their rights. Especially if the rumored national cable sports network comes into play, expanding their own MLB package will be the best way to keep pace.
[h/t: Sports Business Journal]
I wouldn't mind CBS getting baseball back, but I have a better proposition. CBS, instead of claiming you won't ave enough airtime, why not let NBC take over the entire PGA Package (which they actually have anyway thanks to Golf Channel) and air the MLB games on Saturday afternoon instead of having golf runovers. Here's another ting to consider- all those golf tourneys that run over on Sundays wouldn't be hurting your primetime shows on the East Coast if you let NBC get them and instead focused on doing a weekend baseball deal. And here's point #3. If CBS and Turner are sharing resources for Saturday games, it would mean less travel expense for Sunday broadcast teams as you could have the same team call games on both days. Heck, you could even use multiple Turner Networks (like TBS, TNT, and truTV) to air 3 separate games on Sunday, the same 3 games that CBS would broadcast regionally on Saturday. Oh, there is one thing that needs to be done though. You need to make sure the blackout rules online are removed.
@DanielOrmsby As for the regular season, I would imagine that Turner would want either the Saturday or Sunday coverage, whichever day CBS doesn't take. In addition, I couldn't imaging CBS/Turner taking three games on both Saturday AND Sunday. The local broadcasters would be pissed.
@SpringRubber I think you forget that Sunday afternoon games aren't exclusive. The only games currently exclusive are Sunday Night baseball (ESPN), which has already been secured in the new contract, and Saturday baseball on FOX. Neither MLB Network nor TBS have exclusive coverage until the playoffs, and even ESPN doesn't have exclusive coverage for the weekday games. In fact until next year the national broadcast is blacked out for local markets for TBS , ESPN, and MLB games, which is one of the reasons MLB Network always tries to have 2 games scheduled. ESPN has managed to get the blackout lifted under their new contract, but that doesn't apply for TBS and MLB Network unless they get it negotiated in the new contract.
@SpringRubber Please be FOX, please be FOX. (Face it, Turner Sports isn't that great unless it's basketball. Then, they're awesome, if only because of Inside the NBA -- Inside MLB has improved in recent years admittingly.)
@crippenstation TBS has improved by leaps and bounds since 2007. Their announcing stable is pretty darn good right now, with one of the only holes being Dick Stockton (who is shared talent between Fox and TBS anyway). Also, Fox doesn't even currently have their own studio team, nor do they have a stable of announcers to devote to MLB during the midst of the NFL season. They would have to hire a bunch of new announcers in order to cover the whole playoffs package. On the bright side, McCarver might actually retire by 2015, so that's a plus.
If they got the deal, I don't think CBS would even consider luring Buck and McCarver away. Buck still has the NFL, so he'd probably stick to that. They'd probably use their own guys (Jim Nantz, Greg Gumbel, Marv Albert, etc.) and may even bring back a few former baseball guys they had years ago (Sean McDonough, Dick Stockton, etc.)
I just want Fox to lose their baseball rights. I can't stand Tim McCarver during the playoffs and World Series, and Joe Buck only shows up for Red Sox and Yankees games.
What would be wrong with having a model from the mid to late 90s, with Fox having one package with the GOW and CBS/Turner or NBCSG having another. One network airing league divisional and championship straight through and the other network airing the other league.
I highly doubt CBS will get the package. Sure, they have Turner on their side who has experience (TBS used to broadcast the Braves for years before switching to all teams), but FOX is more known for baseball and has a well established brand. And the fact that CBS hasn't had baseball on their airwaves for nearly 20 years is not encouraging.