It may take 30 minutes before you see a baseball highlight on SportsCenter, but that doesn’t mean ESPN doesn’t care about America’s Pastime.
This morning, the Worldwide Leader in Sports announced that they’ve agreed to a new television deal with Major League Baseball that runs from 2014 through 2021. ESPN will pay MLB about $5.6 billion over the life of the deal, or $700 million per season.
What this means for the 30 teams, including the Giants and A’s, is a sweet pay day courtesy of ESPN:
I don’t ever want to hear Lew Wolff or any other MLB owner crying about not having the appropriate funds to re-sign their players. With Fox and TBS deals to be negotiated before their deals expire after next season, some teams could pay off most of their team salary just with TV money.
The new deal also guarantees that ESPN will broadcast each team at least once every year. That means teams like the A’s, who don’t necessarily draw well nationally, will get some air time. Prior to the season, ESPN did not schedule the A’s to appear on any of their primetime telecasts.
This new deal is nice and shiny. But if you’ve been watching ESPN lately, you’d be naive not to notice the NFL dominates their coverage, even though their season hasn’t yet kicked off.
So I find this quote from the highest-paid used car salesman — I mean, MLB commissioner Bud Selig — a bit phony:
“The level of ESPN’s commitment to baseball — both financially and through expanded content — is a testament to the strength of our game and it’s unprecedented popularity among our fans. Through its various networks and other media platforms, ESPN offers baseball fans more avenues to experience the game ever before, and we’re thankful for their continued support.”
Ya, he’s thankful for their $5.6 billion ESPN is paying to show baseball highlights 30 minutes into their flagship show. ESPN may not want to lose live baseball, but their coverage and support of the sport could use some help.
I, for one, would like to see a little less Tim Tebow and a little more pennant race baseball on the self-proclaimed Worldwide Leader.
I implemented a personal boycott of ESPN2′s First Take morning show last fall. The day after the epic Game 6 of the World Series, the first three topics on First Take were about football. One of the greatest baseball games had just occurred and it wasn’t the first thing they wanted to talk about.
I’m sorry Bud, but ESPN isn’t supporting baseball. They are sending broadcast teams to NFL training camps to watch Peyton Manning throw 15 passes, but they’ve stopped broadcasting Baseball Tonight live from the ballpark hosting Sunday Night Baseball.
I hope this new TV deal means that ESPN will give baseball the proper coverage it deserves. It’s the only sport in season right now and should be leading off every episode of SportsCenter, not 10th on the depth chart.