Last updated: July 3, 2012 - 8:25am
Major League Baseball collects an average of $711 million every year from ESPN, Fox and Turner. It wants more, and in coming negotiations for deals that start after the 2013 season, it should get it.
The evolving television landscape provides the rationale. NBC wants to return to baseball, and its cable channel, NBC Sports Network, needs programming that is more powerful than its current marquee properties: the N.H.L. and the Tour de France. Fox is considering turning its Speed channel into an all-sports network, which would need more than motor racing to thrive. In addition, rights fees for professional and college sports have soared since M.L.B. made its current deals with ESPN, Fox, and Turner. More than ever, big-time live sports are must-have attractions. Baseball is clearly trying to exploit the networks’ appetites. According to people briefed on the conversations, M.L.B. has been talking with the networks about changing the configurations of the current deal. The strategy could make the three incumbents worried that some of what they have — maybe “Sunday Night Baseball,” an ESPN staple — could be offered elsewhere.
Fox has sold out its ad inventory in and around next week’s Major League Baseball All-Star Game, moving spots at a high single-digit percentile increase versus last year’s rates.
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