SBJ/July 17 - 23, 2006/Opinion

At midseason, MLB has reason to be confident

MLB officials left the league’s All-Star celebration in Pittsburgh feeling bullish, and understandably so. The three days generated positive buzz and press, the game was unusually exciting, the early ratings were up, the league’s corporate sponsors aggressively activated around the game and, while there was continued coverage of the cloud cast by performance-enhancing drugs, it didn’t overshadow baseball’s message: that MLB is a healthy property bringing in more revenue — Bud Selig put it at a record $5.2 billion — than ever before.

The major news from Pittsburgh was the league’s new television agreements with Fox and Turner. In the past few months, there were continued hints of lukewarm interest in MLB’s TV package; some questioned whether the league was set up for a major drop in rights fees. While it may not be seen as a very clean TV deal, to their credit, league executives creatively pieced together agreements that will result in more games and likely more revenue.

In addition, the league still has inventory to sell, including an attractive League Championship Series package, providing either the foundation for its own Baseball Channel or valuable programming for a willing — and paying — suitor.

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