SBJ/July 16-22, 2012/Media

MLB and NBC near deal for ‘Caught Looking,’ weekly show zeroing in on one key series

MLB is nearing completion of a multiyear deal with NBC Sports to create a weekly documentary series titled “Caught Looking” that will begin Aug. 15 on NBC Sports Network and chronicle behind-the-scenes elements of a key weekend series.

The effort, to be produced by MLB Productions, further expands the league’s interest in developing documentary programming, joining efforts such as “The Franchise” on Showtime and a range of programs on MLB Network. For NBC, the deal provides a prominent piece of post-Olympics programming and joins the recently announced monthly magazine show “Sports Illustrated” as significant additions to its lineup.

“Caught Looking” will share similarities to “24/7” or “Hard Knocks” in that it will feature a rapid turnaround schedule: a Friday-Sunday series will be chronicled in an episode the following Thursday — which will become the show’s regular weekly air date after its Wednesday, Aug. 15, debut.

But rather than focus on one specific team or set of teams throughout, the featured series will shift each week based on emerging pennant races. “Caught Looking” will begin with a Philadelphia-St. Louis matchup, followed by Boston against the New York Yankees. Subsequent series have not yet been selected. Actor Morgan Spector will provide voice-overs for the series.

“Baseball has had a long history on NBC, and we think we do storytelling as well as anyone,” said Jon Miller, NBC Sports president of programming. “We had a really good experience putting together ‘NFL Turning Point’ with NFL Films, focusing on individual plays. And though this program won’t be that specific, we wanted similar, attractive original programming that moved deeply into baseball.”

Financial terms were not disclosed, but the deal was described as a licensing pact in which NBC paid to get access to the content.

NBC parent company Comcast is contractually tied to several MLB teams through its regional sports networks, but the “Caught Looking” deal gives NBC itself a formal relationship with the league for the first time since it stopped airing games after the 2000 playoffs.

“Caught Looking” is not tied to MLB’s developing TV rights negotiations. The league is courting interest from several potential bidders, including NBC, for national TV packages that would begin with the 2014 season. The NBC-MLB deal for the documentary series is for the rest of this season and for 2013. The league is slated to complete its next round of national TV deals long before next season is done.

“This is completely independent of the rights discussions,” Miller said. “The conversations on this series started last fall. We’re nearly a year in development on this, and we’re booked for next year. So it’s two totally separate things.”
MLB executives declined to comment.

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