NEW YORK — Major League Baseball may be returning to NBC and the Fox Network for another five years.
This forecast came out of a revelation that MLB has extended the exclusive negotiating period for the incumbents NBC and Fox for another two weeks beyond the June 5 deadline.
Industry reports say CBS is interested in bidding on baseball, but the network is prohibited from making an offer until the term of the exclusive arrangement for incumbents comes to an end.
The parties to the talks declined to comment on the record, but Fox will probably have to pony up more than double the $115 million a year it’s paying under the current five-year contract, and NBC will also more than double the $80 million that it is paying.
Fox is shelling out more because it carries 18 Saturday afternoon regular-season games, and it’s willing to continue with a similar schedule under a new agreement. NBC does no games in the regular season, and that’s likely to continue in the new deal.
Late last year, ESPN, which had shared cable rights with Fox, elbowed out Fox to become the exclusive national cable distributor of baseball, extending an existing deal by agreeing to ramp up its license fee from $43 million in 1999 to $175 million by 2003.
Any new broadcast-network deal is likely to continue the current five-year arrangement, in which Fox gets three World Series and NBC two, with NBC getting three All-Star Games to Fox’s two. The two networks share in the postseason playoff games.