Fox, TBS lead baseball’s new 7-year TV deal

By BEN WALKER

The Associated Press

PITTSBURGH – First-round playoff games will be shown only on cable starting next season as part of baseball’s new seven-year television deal with Fox and TBS, a total package worth almost $3 billion.

Turner Broadcasting System also will televise 26 regular-season Sunday games in 2008 while eventually cutting back on its nationwide Atlanta Braves coverage.

The World Series, All-Star games and Saturday afternoon telecasts remain on Fox through 2013, as does one of the league championship series. The other LCS – alternating between AL and NL each year – is still up for bidding.

“That’s the last piece of the journey here to be solved, and there is an enormous amount of interest,” commissioner Bud Selig said. “So we’ll be able to hopefully announce that in a very short period of time.”

There is a chance, too, that TBS could benefit from the deal even sooner. The network will show all division and wild-card tiebreaker games, starting this year.

So if the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees finish even in the AL East this October and just one playoff spot remains, for example, TBS gets the game.

“Don’t make me start dreaming,” Turner Sports president David Levy said. “I’m looking for a lot of ties.”

If two first-round games overlap, one will be broadcast on TNT, Levy added.

As part of the new deal, the World Series will start on a Tuesday instead of a Saturday beginning next season.

“Our ratings research shows that this schedule should generate higher ratings,” Fox Sports president Ed Goren said.

And Selig sounded pleased about the change, too.

“It’s so appropriate. That’s the way it used to be,” he said.

That means baseball must adjust its season schedule in the next collective bargaining agreement with the players’ union. The current deal expires after this season.

Baseball would probably prefer to begin the Fall Classic a few days earlier than it does now, as opposed to several days later. So if owners and players agree, the regular season could be condensed to accommodate the new TV deal.

“It will be a better fit for us, better fit for them,” Selig said. “We’ll have to work the schedule out, but I can assure you that it will work out very well.”

Levy said it was too early to speculate which announcers TBS might want for its national games. He also said the network might “tinker with Braves” telecasts later this season to try out different camera angles and graphics packages for next season.

“We’ve always wanted to be a player in the postseason market,” he said. “From a Turner perspective, this is a big, landmark deal for us.”

Turner began showing Braves games locally on WTBS in 1973, then took them national via satellite four years later.

TBS will show 70 Braves games nationally next year, then 45 per season locally through 2013. Up to 13 of those Atlanta games can be shown on TBS’ Sunday package.

“Turner Sports has long been familiar to baseball fans, and we are excited that their coverage will now extend to all of our clubs during the regular season,” Selig said.

Major League Baseball and USA Baseball also announced a 10-year partnership designed to help grow the game at the amateur level.

AP Baseball Writer Mike Fitzpatrick contributed to this report.