SBD/19/Sports Media

MLB PLAYS HARDBALL IN PULLING SUNDAY NIGHT FROM ESPN

          After "months of negotiations," MLB announced that
     because ESPN "plans to bump its final three Sunday night
     baseball games in September to ESPN2" in favor of NFL games,
     MLB "has taken back the games and will return local
     television rights to the six clubs involved," according to
     Scott Hettrick of the HOLLYWOOD REPORTER.  An MLB
     spokesperson "said further action against ESPN, including a
     suit, has not been ruled out."  MLB President & COO Paul
     Beeston: "These will be important and critical games in
     September, and we are disappointed that ESPN has chosen not
     to carry our games.  ESPN2 was never an option.  Our
     contract specifies that Sunday games are to be on ESPN."   
     Hettrick reports that ESPN "might seek compensation for the
     three lost baseball games."  ESPN issued a statement saying
     that MLB's action "violates our contract, which expressly
     provides for pre-emption and distribution on ESPN2."  The
     three MLB games in question are September 6, Giants-Dodgers;
     September 13, Cardinals-Astros; and September 20, Yankees-
     Orioles (Scott Hettrick, HOLLYWOOD REPORTER, 8/19).
          ESPN'S COVERAGE: Forty-one minutes into the 6:30pm ET
     edition of "SportsCenter," ESPN's Larry Beil said: "Major
     League Baseball today informed ESPN that it is withdrawing
     three games scheduled for ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball
     telecast in September, and is returning them to the
     individual teams involved to make their own local television
     arrangements."  With less than 10 minutes remaining in the
     11:00pm ET edition of "SportsCenter," ESPN's Steve Levy
     reported the same announcement, and like Beil, read ESPN's
     statement in its entirety ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 8/18).  The
     AP version of the MLB story is also displayed on the upper
     right side of ESPN SportsZone under the header: "MLB Sacks
     ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball In September" (THE DAILY).

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