Subject to ratification by individual clubs, ESPN and Major League Baseball have struck an eight-year TV deal, keeping the game on ESPN through 2013.
The deal, for up to 80 games per year--excluding post-season--includes Sunday night, Monday night and Wednesday night games.
Disney already has rights to some division playoff action through 2006 via its purchase of Fox Family Channel (now ABC Family).
The deal does not preclude MLB from striking agreements for packages with other outlets, including the Baseball Channel, although Sunday night remains exlusive to ESPN.
The deal includes rights to deliver not just clips but games via a variety of new technologies, including a new broadband service in development, via cell phones, and other mobile devices.
ESPN already had a deal for clips on new digital platforms, but this deal paves the way for delivering whole games.
ESPN/ABC Sports President George Bodenheimer said that the deal was not a response to Comcast and the Outdoor Life Network's interest in going after the package. "This is about more rights, more games, and more exclusivity" for the industry's dominant sports brand.
According to MLB the deal also includes (the language is MLB's):
-The ESPN Monday night series will include the ability to lift blackouts in local MLB Club markets up to three times per club, per year.
- The rights to several of the Major League Baseball All-Star Week events, including the All-Star Home Run Derby, Taco Bell All-Star Legends & Celebrity Softball Game, and the XM Satellite Radio All-Star Futures Game.
- An exclusive telecast of the Sunday night, MLB season-opening game.
- Full coverage of Major League Baseball Opening Day.
- Up to 10 spring training games in each year of the agreement.
- ESPN receives the right to produce a new live pre-game, batting practice program which will generally originate from the site of ESPN’s Monday Night telecast.
- ESPN will air six one-hour specials produced exclusively by Major League Baseball Productions, the Emmy® award-winning television and video production division of Major League Baseball, in each year of the agreement.