Bidders Lining Up for a Hot TV Commodity — With Billions at Stake

Sep 4, 2012  •  Post A Comment

Even in a period when television’s viewership numbers are often seen as slipping, one hot commodity is on the market that has bidders ready to shell out billions. The commodity is Major League Baseball.

Sports Business Journal reports that Fox was in around-the-clock talks with MLB last week in an effort to retain its rights package — on the heels of news that a deal worth almost $6 billion was just reached between MLB and ESPN.

“Last Monday, Fox Sports’ top executives — co-presidents Randy Freer and Eric Shanks and executive vice president Larry Jones — were in the midst of wall-to-wall meetings in New York City to try to retain a package with the league, with whom it has had a relationship since 1996,” the story reports. “Fox acted aggressively and told MLB that it wanted to maintain its current deal, which includes the World Series, one league championship series and the All-Star Game.”

In a new twist, MLB told networks that it is considering combining the existing packages held by Fox and Turner. Fox countered with a proposal hinting at its own grand scheme for baseball.

“Fox’s new offer included Turner’s MLB package, which includes the rest of the playoffs,” the story reports. “Instead of putting those games on Fox’s broadcast channel, it said it wanted to place those games on its planned all-sports channel, which it is calling Fox Sports 1, sources said.”

Meanwhile, sources indicated that top execs for Turner Sports have been working with MLB in the hopes of not only maintaining the Turner package, but also picking up the Fox programming. Sources close to the Fox negotiations, meanwhile, said the network’s initial offer fell short.

“The company was following ESPN, which set the market when it agreed to double the price of its package,” the report says. “That means that Fox would have to approach an average of $800 million a year for two available packages. Fox now pays $257.1 million for its package, while Turner pays $148.6 million for its package.

“Fox executives flew back to Los Angeles without a deal late last week. It was unclear whether Fox would be able to reach a deal.”

What about Turner’s chances? “Turner executives discussed a structure that looks a lot like its March Madness partnership with CBS,” the story reports. “Turner has told MLB that it would put baseball’s biggest events, like the All-Star Game, the World Series and some league championship series games, on CBS. The remaining programming would go to TBS. This would return CBS to covering baseball for the first time since 1993. Over the past couple of months CBS Sports executives have reached out to MLB about their interest in the package and desire to carry the World Series and All-Star Game on their broadcast network.”

Another player is MLB’s own MLB Network, while NBC Sports is also in the picture and potentially ready to bid on the full package.

MLB is reportedly weighing its options, with nothing yet decided.

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