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Volume 22 No. 8
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MLB gets in DAZN with digital rights

The Red Zone channel for baseball will be coming next spring to a streaming device near you.

DAZN’s announcement last week of a three-year, $300 million deal with MLB will give the Perform Group-owned channel a package of digital rights that will allow it to create a weeknight whiparound and live look-in show similar to that popular NFL offering. The deal also will accomplish several other goals: It gives DAZN a critical beachhead in major U.S. team sports beyond its existing presence in combat sports; it gives MLB another tool to seek out younger fans, particularly ones without a traditional cable subscription; and it further signals the impactful arrival of new DAZN Executive Chairman John Skipper, who played a key role in the deal’s development.

“This MLB deal definitely helps build momentum and credibility that DAZN is an appropriate home for all sports,” Skipper said.

A deal for U.S. streaming rights began to take root in July during a meeting in the Hamptons between Skipper and MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred. The notion of creating a Red Zone-style offering developed quickly, and a deal was essentially complete by mid-September. But it still required working outside the traditional construct of baseball’s existing media rights, many of which are locked up into the next decade.

“We have the burden of introducing a new product in a market where most of the major live rights are tied up, in many cases for a long time,” Skipper said. “It’s going to require that we innovate and create new kinds of shows.”

The DAZN MLB show itself will run from about 7 p.m. to 1 a.m. weeknights, with the length of live in-game looks varying based on individual regional sports network rules and contracts. But DAZN, which will produce the show in collaboration with MLB Network, intends to develop a decidedly youth-leaning program with younger, multicultural on-air talent.

“This is part of our ongoing effort to have baseball on every available platform,” Manfred said. “We are convinced that Perform and DAZN will help us grow our game and reach new fans.”