Major League Baseball‘s 2014 season isn’t even 10 games old, which means every team is still in contention. Even the Houston Astros, whose fans have suffered with the league’s worst record each of the past three years. The team is mired in last place again — natch — but …
Boston Red Sox’s 2013 World Series MVP David Ortiz and Pittsburgh Pirates All-Star centerfielder Andrew McCutcheon will executive produce the weekly, 30-episode series slated to debut on MTV2 in April 2014. It’s part of a new multi-year, cross-platform programming partnership jointly announced today by MTV and MLB. Shot in New York City from inside the MLB Fan Cave, a space that mixes baseball with music, pop culture, media, interactive technology and art, the new series will move beyond game analysis, stats and highlights to showcase MLB athletes off the field, in addition to celebrity appearances.
“The MLB Fan Cave has been an enormous success in showcasing the personalities of our star players to young fans and intersecting baseball with pop culture,” said Tim Brosnan, Executive Vice President, Business, Major League Baseball. “Being able to partner with MTV on a weekly TV series will give us an opportunity to bring that concept to an even broader audience.”
The last time the island nation’s people were able to see a big league ballgame on free TV, the Cuban Missile Crisis was still a year away. The Associated Press reports that the streak finally was broken …
Major League Baseball, the NHL, Comcast and DirecTV failed today in their team effort to get an antitrust class action suit against them dismissed in a New York District Court. “Plaintiffs have plausibly alleged that the NHL and MLB have used their monopoly power to restrict the broadcast of television programming in a manner that harms competition,” said the ruling (read it here) from U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin on Wednesday. The ruling means the class action instigated in the spring can go forward. The various plaintiffs claim that the leagues, regional sports networks and the cable and satellite companies have created monopolies over the airing of games on TV and online by dividing up territories and instating blackouts. In a response this summer, the defendants said the plaintiff’s claims were “meritless” and sought to have the case tossed. While the judge rejected the notion that self-proclaimed “middlemen” DirecTV, Comcast and the regional sports networks actively conspired to monopolize individual markets, Sheindlin kept everyone on the hook for their collective actions. “The notion that the exhibition of league games on television and the Internet is clearly a ‘league issue’ is contrary to long-standing precedent that agreements limiting the telecasting of professional sports games are subject to antitrust scrutiny,” Scheindlin wrote in the 53-page ruling.
A conference hearing in New York has been scheduled for December 18.
Deadline’s Executive Editor David Lieberman talks with host David Bloom in Episode 4 of Deadline Big Media. This week Lieberman discusses how Major League Baseball managed to hit a home run in negotiating renewed rights deals with three networks; Netflix’s very good week with analysts and others; and an analyst report suggesting that, with TV’s booming syndication revenues across many platforms, it’s going to be very difficult and expensive for Apple or any other company to break up how the industry does business.
UPDATE: Major League Baseball Will Double Annual Rights Fees Following New Deals With Turner And Fox
UPDATE, 12:56 PM: The eight-year agreement with Fox Sports Media Group is the second shoe to drop today in Major League Baseball’s renewal deals, following the one we reported earlier with Turner. When you add these agreements with the one that MLB previously struck with ESPN, the league says that it will see a 100% increase in its annual rights fees compared with its current deals. That jibes with earlier leaks about the terms. In the new arrangement, which begins in 2014, Fox will keep the World Series and All-Star Game and share the League Championship Series and Division series with TBS and MLB Network. Fox will be able to broadcast 52 regular season games nationally on Saturdays, up from 26, and Fox can air 12 of them exclusively. The network also agreed to air a weekly 30-minute show created by Major League Baseball Productions. The pacts include TV Everywhere rights. They also end blackouts that prevented subscribers of MLB Extra Innings and MLB.tv from watching Saturday out-of-market games. Baseball Commissioner Allan H. (Bud) Selig says that “the unprecedented and historic commitment these networks have made to televising Major League Baseball for years to come is truly amazing.”
The big question now is whether the networks will be able to pass some of the new costs off to pay TV distributors — and, by extension, consumers who might have to pay higher monthly bills. The deals with Fox and Turner will cost $6.8B over the eight years, Sports Business Daily reports. That comes to an average of $525M a year for Fox, and $325M a year for Turner. “The plain truth is that these MLB deals will send monthly pay-TV bills streaking skyward,” says American Cable Association Matthew Polka. “They will make life hard for families whose incomes, hammered by the recession, can’t keep pace with the greed of broadcasters, cable networks and sports leagues. And these MLB deals follow the announcement of equally harmful deals between the National Football League and CBS, NBC, Fox and ESPN worth more than $42 billion.”
The networks have agreed to extend their current contracts with Major League Baseball to 2021 at about double what they’re paying now, according to media reports. The deals have not been officially announced. If true, though, it means Fox will pay about $4 billion over eight years for its slate of games that includes the World Series and some League Championship Series matchups that it shares with TBS, according to USA Today. TBS parent Turner will play about $2.8 billion over the eight years. The packages are essentially the same, with TBS giving up some first-round playoff games to Fox and its soon-to-be-rebranded Speed channel, Sports Business Daily reports. The publication also says MLB Network could receive some of those early-round games — the League Divisional Series — from Fox.
A U.S. Bankruptcy judge today set December 7 to kick off a two-day hearing about whether the Los Angeles Dodgers can begin marketing the team’s lucrative future local TV rights, which Fox Sports holds through the end of the 2013 baseball season. Fox already has sued the Dodgers to block any early rights sale. The network claims its regional network has an exclusive window to renegotiate a new deal as part of its current contract, and that that team is using bankruptcy protection to break that agreement. (As part of that lawsuit, Fox will ask Judge Kevin Gross to dismiss the team’s bankruptcy altogether in a hearing set for December 27.) How valuable are those TV rights? Soon-to-be-ex-Dodgers owner Frank McCourt at one time had a $3 billion deal with Fox in place before it was rejected by Major League Baseball and commissioner Bud Selig, forcing McCourt to seek bankruptcy for the team and eventually agree to sell the franchise outright.
The Los Angeles Dodgers sued Fox Sports on Wednesday, accusing the News Corp-owned network of attempting to ”interfere with the sale of the Dodgers and their assets in bankruptcy.” The Dodgers’ goal is to sell the team and its valuable TV rights through separate court-sanctioned auctions to maximize returns. In a sharply worded court response filed Wednesday night Fox said it would ask that the Dodgers be dismissed from bankruptcy, according to the LA Times. Fox slammed Major League Baseball as “Prime Ticket’s former ally” and asserted the only reason Frank McCourt wants to auction the team’s TV rights now is to put “value rightfully belonging to Prime Ticket,in his own pocket” — referring to Fox Sports’ package of programming. The Dodgers’ suit was filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware, where Fox already has a suit pending against the team for alleged breach of contract in the continuing squabble over TV rights. Responding to the latest development, the Dodgers called Fox “obviously desperate” to prevent an auction that would reveal the “enormous value” of those rights and “lead to a record-smashing sale price for the team and benefit not just the Dodgers but all of baseball.”
Dodgers Owner Gets OK For Bankruptcy Loan; League Backs Off After Team Agrees Not To Auction TV Rights
The Delaware court that is sorting out the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Chapter 11 filing has authorized the team to enter into a $150 million bankruptcy financing arrangement that will allow owner Frank McCourt to meet the Dodgers’ payroll obligations …
Last week, Dodgers owners Frank and Jamie McCourt agreed to a plan for a divorce settlement that would have given Frank McCourt sole ownership of the franchise — if Major League Baseball approved a lucrative TV deal that McCourt struck with Fox. That multiyear deal worth $3 billion (and, more importantly, $385 million upfront) would help McCourt shore up the Dodgers, who right now are being controlled by the league during all of this divorce mess. Well, baseball commissioner Bud Selig always seemed reluctant to OK the Fox contract, and today Selig made it official by rejecting the deal, saying in part that “the transaction is structured to facilitate the further diversion of Dodgers assets for the personal needs of Mr. McCourt.” Ouch. Under terms of the divorce plan, it means the Dodgers are one step closer to being sold off — the assets would be split 50-50 between Frank and Jamie — unless Frank can find some other way to get a massive amount of money together to play his players’ monthly salaries and restore the league’s faith in him as an owner. Here’s Selig’s statement: