ESPN has agreed to a deal that locks down MLB rights into the next decade, according to several sources. The eight-year deal is worth $5.6B (an average of $700M per year), approximately doubling the amount ESPN currently pays the league. ESPN now pays MLB nearly $306M per year for domestic TV rights and around another $50M for digital, international and radio rights. The new deal wraps TV, digital, international and radio rights into one package. The package will be announced via a conference call scheduled for 3:00pm ET this afternoon. As part of the deal, which runs through '21, ESPN retains the rights to "Sunday Night Baseball," its Monday and Wednesday night games and highlights for "Baseball Tonight." ESPN also will carry one Wild Card playoff game, sources said. In its current deal, ESPN does not have rights to any MLB playoffs. ESPN will pick up hundreds of new hours of MLB programming as part of the deal and gets a 13% increase in the number of live games the network is allowed to show. ESPN gains added rights to show games in progress. ESPN also picked up rights to carry games featuring more popular teams, such as the Yankees and Red Sox, more frequently. The new deal virtually eliminates blackouts around ESPN's Monday and Wednesday night games. Historically, those games have been blacked out in the teams' home markets. As part of the deal, ESPN's telecasts will co-exist with local telecasts.
NOW FOR THE REST OF THE STORY: MLB now turns its attention to the rest of its media package, which includes Divisional playoff series, Championship playoff series and the World Series, as well as a Saturday Game of the Week. The rest of MLB's media rights already have attracted a lot of interest, with Fox, NBC and Turner negotiating for those packages. MLB is expected to carve out a package for its MLB Network, as well. Fox' seven-year deal with MLB ends after next season. It is worth $257.1M per year and includes the Saturday Game of the Week, one LCS and the World Series. Turner's seven-year deal with MLB also concludes at the end of next year. It is worth $148.6M annually and includes the Divisional playoff series and the other LCS, plus a regular-season non-exclusive Sunday afternoon game. Considering the amount ESPN has agreed to pay MLB in its new deal -- plus the competition for the packages -- it is likely that both the Fox and Turner deals will at least double in value, as well.