SBJ/February 6 - 12, 2006/Other News

Cuba crisis settled: Classic open for business

Major League Baseball’s corporate deal-making for the upcoming World Baseball Classic is off and running now that the event’s Cuba crisis has been resolved.

MLB executives for weeks held back making any business announcements on the debut tournament, scheduled for March 3-20, until it resolved a nettlesome issue regarding Cuba’s participation.

MLB, after lining up players for a July announcement
for the World Baseball Classic, is seeking corporate
partners for the March 3-20 tournament.
The U.S. Treasury Department initially denied Cuba’s license to participate in the tournament, with the country subject to a long-standing American economic embargo. MLB and the players’ union successfully lobbied for a reversal of the ruling on Jan. 20.

ESPN began the subsequent march of media and sponsorship deals, officially announcing early last week its long-known plans to broadcast 16 World Baseball Classic games live. The domestic TV package is joined by ESPN Deportes coverage of all 39 tournament games and ESPN Radio broadcasts of the semifinals and finals. In addition, ESPN has the interactive rights to repurpose footage of the event for the net’s online properties and Mobile ESPN.

The cable network was followed by Take-Two Enterprises, which plans to have a World Baseball Classic game embedded within its latest video game title, MLB 2K6. Still to be formally announced are expected deals with XM Satellite Radio, which will broadcast every WBC game, as well as pacts with other key MLB sponsors Taco Bell and Pepsi.

Some announcements were held up again briefly during the run-up to the Super Bowl, but dealings for the Classic remain active.

“Our corporate partners have been very supportive. We’re very enthused,” said Tim Brosnan, MLB executive vice president for business.

Terms of the announced and pending deals were not disclosed, but most were negotiated as stand-alone agreements separate from the companies’ existing relationships with MLB. Many are believed to be in the six- and low seven-figure range, as the Classic itself has an operating budget of about $45 million. MLB expects that the event will be profitable.

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