Turner Sports will continue broadcasting Major League Baseball after agreeing to an extension of rights through the 2028 season.
The seven-year agreement will take effect in 2022 and includes a Tuesday night game as well as additional postseason games. It also includes expanded digital rights for Bleacher Report and other WarnerMedia platforms.
This is the second of the three rights deals that MLB has extended. It reached an extension with Fox two years ago that also runs through 2028. Manfred said negotiations with ESPN are ongoing about renewing that network’s deal beyond the 2021 season.
The Fox and Turner deals are similar in that each includes an increase over 40% when they begin in 2022. Turner will pay an average of $470 million per season.
“The commitment to baseball from Turner is as strong today as it has ever been,” WarnerMedia Sports and News Chairman Jeff Zucker said. “Our strategy is to present premium live sports and obviously extending our deal was an important pillar.”
While the increased playoff games carry their own value, Zucker did say the deal would not have been reached if there wasn’t an expansion of the digital rights. The increased use of MLB footage and highlights for Bleacher Report could attract a younger audience, which baseball has struggled to build.
“The digital rights only used to be a language issue in the contracts but now they are substantive, economic rights,” Commissioner Rob Manfred said. “It was with Fox, it is with ESPN and it was significant in this deal. It is a recognition of the way the world now consumes entertainment.”
Turner Sports has aired baseball since 1973, when Atlanta Braves games were televised on WTCG in Atlanta, before it became known as SuperStation TBS. Turner began a national package of regular season and postseason games in 2007.
The new deal includes exclusive rights to one wild-card game, two of the four Division Series and one of the League Championship Series. The coverage will alternate between leagues each year and gives Turner the most postseason games on a network.
It also includes a season-long Game of the Week on Tuesday nights. Turner currently has a Sunday afternoon game over the last half of the season.
Manfred believes moving to Tuesdays gives Turner more opportunities to expand its baseball reach.
“We think summer Sunday afternoons aren’t a great place to have them. Fans have a lot of other things to do and there are two national windows the same day,” Manfred said.
Zucker also likes the Tuesday night window because there generally will be a full slate of games to choose from.
Turner also is retooling its studio show beginning with this year’s AL Division Series. Ernie Johnson will anchor the show and will be joined by Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez, Jimmy Rollins and newcomer Curtis Granderson. Granderson will also contribute to Bleacher Report.
“The studio show to me is important and shows our commitment to the sport. I wanted to put our best foot forward,” Zucker said. “In all candor, I thought we could improve. We have the best studio host there is in Ernie Johnson. It won’t be ‘Inside the NBA’ but it will be its own, unique show.”
Manfred said there are provisions in the deal if there are changes in the postseason format.