ESPN, MLB Strike Deal

by Bob Raissman, NY Daily News - 9/13/05

Major League Baseball and ESPN have agreed to extend their partnership through 2013.

Commissioner Bud Selig and ESPN boss George Bodenheimer outlined a new eight-year deal worth just over $2.3 billion, giving ESPN the right to cablecast as many as 80 games per season.

The new deal includes ESPN’s exclusive “Sunday Night Baseball” package as well as a schedule of Monday and Wednesday night games.

Under terms of agreement, MLB retains the right to sell games to another cable outlet and pursue plans to start its own baseball network.

“We have flexibility here,” Selig said during a conference call. “We can proceed any way we want…We are going to proceed very cautiously.”

The new deal gives ESPN the right to have team play on “Sunday Night Baseball” five times per season, up from 11 over a three-season period under the current agreement. No postseason games are included in the new deal.

Selig said even with the increased ESPN slate, and any new packages in the works, he is not worried about market saturation.

”I do not worry that this will produce a glut,” he said.

Next up for MLB are negotiations with Fox, its over-the-air broadcast partner. That deal expires following the 2006 season.