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Turner’s Big Baseball Play

Oct 23, 2006  •  Post A Comment

Turner Broadcasting has reached a seven-year agreement to televise one of Major League Baseball’s League Championship Series beginning in 2007.

TBS will have the National League Championship in odd-numbered years and the American League Championship in even-numbered years. Fox will carry the other series each year.

Turner is paying between $40 million and $45 million a year for the rights, a person familiar with the matter said.

In July, the league struck new long-term broadcast deals with Fox, ESPN and Turner (TelevisionWeek, July 17). Turner added exclusive coverage of baseball’s first-round division series starting in 2007 and a national package of Sunday night games beginning in 2008.

Fox in July made a deal with the league reducing the network’s postseason commitment, giving up one League Championship Series and the Division Series. Turner bid, and ESPN and Versus were interested in the rights, according to sources. Fox executives said they would televise the games at the right price.

While admitting some disappointment in the ratings performance of this year’s playoffs, Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig refused early last week to concede that championship series ratings would necessarily decline when they move to cable.

“I’m very optimistic about this relationship,” he said.

While Turner has carried Braves games on TBS for 30 years, it hasn’t had playoff baseball.

“This establishes TBS as the cable home of the national pastime,” said Turner Sports president David Levy.

Mr. Levy said he expects that postseason games would attract some official Major League Baseball sponsors that haven’t advertised on TBS before.