The Walt Disney Company, ESPN and Major League Baseball have reached a long-term, wide-ranging rights extension for a fully-exclusive, marquee schedule. The seven-year agreement begins in 2022 and extends through the 2028 season.
As a result of the agreement, ESPN will exclusively televise 30 regular-season games annually, including 25 editions of Sunday Night Baseball, the national MLB game of the week, and the MLB Little League Classic. ESPN will exclusively televise five additional games each season, including the national Opening Night telecast. ESPN will continue to exclusively carry the Home Run Derby as part of its cross-platform MLB All-Star coverage. For each of its live events, ESPN will receive the rights to produce alternate presentations across its platforms, as well as the opportunity to simulcast all ESPN and ABC game telecasts on ESPN+.
Robert D. Manfred, Jr., Commissioner of Baseball, said: “ESPN has been one of MLB’s longest and most important partners. This extension continues the evolution of our relationship with a focus on utilising ESPN’s extensive assets to shine a spotlight on key match-ups throughout the year. With reach across broadcast, cable, streaming, and social, ESPN is able to deliver MLB action to our broad fan base across multiple platforms. As the way in which fans consume baseball continues to change, this partnership provides expanded opportunities for fans to engage with our content and we are excited to present those new opportunities.”
James Pitaro, Chairman, ESPN and Sports Content, said: “ESPN’s longstanding relationship with Major League Baseball has been a driver of innovation for three decades. This agreement solidifies Baseball’s ubiquitous presence across ESPN platforms, including ESPN+. The impactful collection of exclusive content, including Sunday Night Baseball which has served as the signature MLB series for more than 30 years, will be amplified by the surrounding rights we have to make these live events even bigger. We thank Commissioner Manfred and the MLB ownership group for their partnership and commitment as we collectively uncover new ways to serve fans.”
ESPN will exclusively televise the entire MLB Wild Card Series starting in 2022, if the event expands. ESPN carried seven of the eight MLB Wild Card Series in 2020. If the current Wild Card format remains consistent, ESPN will continue to exclusively televise one of the two MLB Wild Card Games, and will receive eight additional exclusive regular-season game telecasts each year.
MLB on ESPN+
In addition to the new live event simulcast rights, ESPN has gained the rights to create new MLB content for ESPN+, including studio and highlight-driven programming. The streaming service will also continue to televise a Major League Baseball game, subject to local blackout restrictions, nearly every day of the regular season, as well as select Spring Training coverage.
ESPN Radio and Spanish language
ESPN has kept its extensive audio and Spanish-language telecast rights per this new deal. ESPN Radio will continue to nationally broadcast the highest profile events in MLB, including the World Series and the full MLB Postseason, the All-Star Game, Opening Night, and Sunday Night Baseball. ESPN will also continue its robust Spanish-language telecast rights package for ESPN Deportes, including live events and studio coverage throughout the regular season and Postseason.
Increased highlight rights, studio content
This agreement will increase ESPN’s wide-ranging collection of highlight rights for all of its news and information platforms and digital MLB shows such as BBTN Live. Furthermore, Baseball Tonight will continue to serve as ESPN’s premier pre-event show for its season-long package of high-profile live events. Baseball Tonight will air prior to Opening Night, Sunday Night Baseball, Home Run Derby, MLB Little League Classic, Wild Card and will deliver content for All-Star Game and the MLB Postseason.
In addition to ESPN’s regular season and Postseason packages, it has the rights to nationally televise up to 10 Spring Training games each year. These telecasts will co-exist in the local markets.
The rights in this new agreement provide flexibility to maximise the current and potential future distribution of ESPN.
ESPN and Major League Baseball signed its first rights agreement in 1989 which commenced with the 1990 season. Sunday Night Baseball, the exclusive, national MLB game of the week, continues to serve as an integral part of the agreement. The franchise has served baseball fans since 1990.
The relationship has consistently generated broadcast innovations, including K-Zone, K-Zone Live, K-Zone 3D, Statcast-driven alternative viewing experiences, live, in-game mic’d up players, Hit Tracker, Sundays from the Seats, enhancements to in-field audio and Live From Home – Commentary technology.