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Volume 27 No. 9
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MLB Signs Seven-Year Extension With Fox Worth $5.1B

MLB signed a seven-year media rights renewal with Fox Sports that sources say is worth $5.1B, or $728.6M per year. The deal formally was announced at the MLB owners meetings in Atlanta today. Fox currently is in the middle of an eight-year pact and pays $525M annually through '21, meaning the new agreement is worth nearly 39% more per year. The deal, which keeps MLB tied to Fox and FS1 through '28, looks much like Fox’ current deal, in part, because that was all MLB could sell as its other media packages are not up. MLB has held renewal talks with its other partners -- ESPN and Turner Sports -- but sources said those companies are not yet close to renewal deals. Fox will carry the World Series, All-Star Game, one LCS and one LDS during the length of the new deal. It also will continue to carry regular-season games on Saturday and have Spanish-language rights for Fox Deportes. The deal gives MLB a great deal of revenue certainty for the next decade and extends their ties with one of their closest partners. Tony Petitti and Chris Tully led the deal for MLB.

DEAL INCLUDES ENHANCED DIGITAL RIGHTS: The new deal gives Fox enhanced digital, streaming, social media and highlight rights, as well as the right to produce more games. Fox has the rights to put games on Caffeine, the social broadcasting platform in which 21CF invested $100M a few months ago. “In any new deal coming up -- especially one that’s going to go for a decade -- you want to address different platforms, you want to address digital and all the off-shoots of digital around social media and new platforms that you’re going to be able to distribute new content through,” said Fox Sports CEO & Exec Producer Eric Shanks. “Modernizing the terms that we’ve been working through on the last deal and trying to prepare for the future is a positive for both sides.” Sources said it is likely that the added games could include a primetime weeknight window on the Fox broadcast channel, though that would not start until '22.

NO CHANGE TO GAME PLACEMENT: Shanks said that Fox Sports’ rights in the new contract regarding placement of LDS and LCS games will continue as they have in recent years. Last month’s airing of NLCS games, including the dramatic Dodgers-Brewers NLCS Game 7, caused a stir within baseball circles given the smaller distribution of FS1 compared to broadcast Fox. However, Shanks said he “will always work with baseball to maximize viewership for our games, under the same standards we have.” Shanks also said he expects the network’s lead MLB announcing team of Joe Buck and John Smoltz will stay in place as long as they chosose. With regard specifically to Buck, who has been the lead Fox play-by-play voice since the first acquired MLB rights in ’96, Shanks said, “I can’t imagine Fox baseball without Joe Buck.”

DAZN IN DA GAME: MLB also announced a streaming deal with DAZN that will not include any live games but allows for live cut-ins, similar to how MLB Network handles its studio show “MLB Tonight.” The three-year deal is a relatively small but significant move as DAZN continues its push into the U.S. market under the direction of Exec Chair John Skipper.