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ESPN Renews Rights Deal with Major League Baseball Until 2028, Games to Simulcast on ESPN+

Jeff Kotuby

Disney CEO Bob Chapek dropped some big news during his company’s Q2 2021 call, announcing that ESPN and Major League Baseball have extended their media rights agreement to 2028. The company will retain its rights to “Sunday Night Baseball” but will ditch the weekday schedule that sees it compete with local broadcasts for regular-season games.

ESPN will air 30 MLB games per year, including 25 Sunday Night Baseball games, the national MLB game of the week, and the MLB Little League Classic. ESPN will exclusively televise five additional games each season, including the national Opening Night telecast. ESPN will also continue to carry the Home Run Derby during All-Star Weekend. For each of its live events, ESPN will receive the rights to produce alternate presentations across its platforms, as well as the opportunity to simulcast all ESPN and ABC game telecasts on ESPN+.

In addition to the new live event simulcast rights, ESPN has gained the rights to create new MLB content for ESPN+, including studio and highlight-driven programming. The streaming service will also continue to televise a Major League Baseball game, subject to local blackout restrictions, nearly every day of the regular season, as well as select Spring Training games.

ESPN will also have exclusive rights to broadcast the Wild Card games should the league vote to increase the playoff field. If not, ESPN will only get one Wild Card game, but eight more regular-season telecasts. (Obviously, ESPN is rooting for an expanded playoff field.)

“ESPN has been one of MLB’s longest and most important partners,” said MLB commissioner Rob Manfred. “As the way in which fans consume baseball continues to change, this partnership provides expanded opportunities for fans to engage with our content and we are excited to present those new opportunities.”

According to Sports Business Journal, the deal is seven years in length with an annual value of $560 million, down from the $700 million per year ESPN paid in their previous deal. Apparently, MLB is shopping the rights to those weekday games now that ESPN is out of it. Could Turner swoop in and complement ESPN’s baseball offerings like they do with basketball and hockey? Or would Amazon consider buying the rights to add to their NFL coverage?

“ESPN’s longstanding relationship with Major League Baseball has been a driver of innovation for three decades,” said ESPN chairman Jimmy Pitaro. “This agreement solidifies Baseball’s ubiquitous presence across ESPN platforms, including ESPN+.”

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