How might Fox use baseball to set up a Fox Sports network when ESPN has locked up all three of its previous packages? Apparently, by taking a page from Turner’s playbook.
As it turns out, it’s being reported that the situation in the room is pretty much as I suggested previously: Turner wants to get out from the utter disaster that is the Sunday afternoon package and wants to take over Fox’s Saturday package. What I hadn’t anticipated was that Fox would be more than willing to do so. Apparently, the offer they made Major League Baseball would have moved most of Fox’s regular season package to a Fox Sports network in addition to the Division Series, with the broadcast network keeping its share of LCS games. (Although both packages would still include the dreaded Sunday afternoon package.)
In other words, it’s basically the same as the CBS/Turner offer, but with the added benefit of being a single entity… and more importantly, leaving some regular season games on broadcast. Apparently MLB is rather leery of giving the World Series to CBS without a commitment to at least some regular season games. As a result, Fox should now be considered the favorite to win the contract again with CBS/Turner lagging behind – bad news for those who want to be rid of Tim McCarver, great news for those who want a competitor to ESPN.
NBC is considered to be lagging behind considerably, but this development makes me think that maybe they don’t necessarily have to be. NBC could put together a similar package as Fox, with most regular season games on NBC Sports Network with the World Series and some regular season games on the broadcast network – which also helps solve potential conflicts with hockey, horse racing, and golf. Apparently conflicts between the World Series and Sunday Night Football are an obstacle, but I can’t imagine it’s really that much of a problem. I imagine the NFL would be perfectly willing to go back to not competing against the World Series if NBC asked them to.
MLB also apparently wants to unify the postseason under a single rights holder, meaning ESPN might not end up with more than it already has after all. It’s possible MLB informed ESPN that if it wanted more than a single wild-card game and any tiebreakers, it would have to take the whole shebang, including the World Series and some regular-season games on ABC. Considering how crowded ESPN’s schedule can be, especially in fall with college football, ESPN may have balked and decided to stick with what they could get. In that light, I’m a little surprised MLB even gave ESPN that much, which makes me think ESPN may still get a few Division Series games.