The contract includes a record-setting increase in annual rights fees, as ESPN's $700 million per year marks an increase of 100 percent over its current deal, setting an all-time record for an MLB broadcasting deal. The pact grants ESPN, the Walt Disney Co.-owned network that began televising MLB games in 1990, a significant increase in studio and game content, including the right to broadcast up to 90 regular-season MLB games per year across the ESPN networks beginning in 2014 and running through the 2021 season.
ESPN will continue to telecast three MLB windows each week, including Monday nights, Wednesday nights and the nationally exclusive "Sunday Night Baseball" franchise.
Starting in 2014, ESPN will be back in the business of televising postseason action, with one of the two Wild Card Games presented by Budweiser. ESPN will alternate airing the American League and National League Wild Card Games each year. Also starting in 2014, ESPN will have the rights to all potential regular-season tiebreaker games.
"In a year of record achievements, today is a very historic day for baseball as we announce a new eight-year agreement with ESPN that will take us into a fourth decade of working together," Commissioner Bud Selig said. "ESPN's financial commitment to MLB is extraordinary. It is testament not only to the unprecedented strength of the game, but also to the popularity among its fans. Attendance is on pace to pass the record single-season total, we have unprecedented labor peace and competitive balance stronger than ever, and today's announcement is further proof that we are truly living in a golden age of the sport."
MLB also is seeking new deals with FOX and Turner Broadcasting, its other two national rights holders. Those contracts expire at the end of the 2013 season, and the exclusive negotiating window for those networks has passed.
"There are other available [packages] and we are in the process of working on them, and hopefully in the reasonably near future we will have announcements to make on them," Selig said. "This is just the most dramatic way for us to say not only is this the golden era, but look at what other people think. In this and in deals to come, you are going to see further dramatic indications of that."
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