Walt Disney Co’s ESPN unit said Tuesday it has reached a $5.6 billion deal with Major League Baseball giving it television, radio and digital programming rights for an additional eight years.
The contract, which reportedly nearly doubles what ESPN is now paying, starts in 2014 and extends ESPN’s rights through 2021.
It includes one annual wild-card game plus additional regular season, tiebreaker and other special games. There also will be rights to produce a new, daily baseball studio show, additional hours for the “Baseball Tonight” show and other new programming. Rights for coverage on ESPN Radio, ESPN International and ESPN Deportes also will expand.
ESPN, which is 80-percent owned by the Burbank entertainment giant, has been broadcasting MLB games since 1990. It had been facing increasing competition for MLB games from other cable networks.
“The level of ESPN’s commitment to baseball – both financially and through its expanded content – is a testament to the strength of our game and its unprecedented popularity among our fans,” said baseball Commissioner Allan Selig in a statement.