WarnerMedia extended its relationship with Major League Baseball with a new seven-year agreement that maintains Turner Sports’ access to post-season games and will create a Tuesday-night broadcast that seeks to emulate the Thursday-night franchise Turner has built with the NBA.
The new agreement will be in effect between 2022 and 2028.
WarnerMedia is expected to pay $3.7 billion, or around $535 million a year, over the course of the agreement, according to people familiar with the matter. The new pact represents an increase of approximately 65% over the company’s prior terms, which called for WarnerMedia to pay around $325 million per year, these people said.
“We’re delighted to extend our long-standing relationship with Major League Baseball and all of the opportunities this agreement offers us as we broaden our coverage of the game across all of our platforms,” said Jeff Zucker, chairman of WarnerMedia’s news and sports operations, in a statement. “We will continue to further evolve our multiplatform delivery of content with a focus on storytelling and innovation in all forms.”
The deal moves Turner’s previous Sunday-night baseball broadcast, often blacked out in local markets, to Tuesday, where the TV company plans to augment it with a new studio program. This “MLB on TBS” show will be anchored by Ernie Johnson, a longtime host for Turner’s NBA coverage. The program will debut with the American League Division Series on Monday, Oct. 5, and Johnson will be joined by former New York Yankee Curtis Granderson; former star pitcher Pedro Martinez; and former shortstop Jimmy Rollins. Granderson, who is new to Turner, will work as an analyst for “MLB on TBS’s” postseason studio coverage while also contributing to Turner’s sports site Bleacher Report. He was previously a guest analyst for TBS for the 2019 National League Championship Series.
“Our new MLB deal and season-long Tuesday night franchise present us with an opportunity to evolve our vision for the MLB studio show,” said Craig Barry, chief content officer, Turner Sports, in a statement. “This collection of studio talent will allow us to combine expert analysis with storytelling that is dynamic, informative and entertaining for our viewers.”
Under terms of the new deal, Turner starting in 2022 will have a new season-long Tuesday-night package that doubles the amount of live regular-season game telecasts currently airing on the network. TBS will have exclusive rights to televise one League Championship Series in each year of the pact, and will alternate between the American League and National League. The company will also have exclusive rights to televise two of the four MLB Division Series, also alternating between America League and National League play. TBS will carry one Wild Card game.
The new pact will grant Turner new digital rights as well, giving TBS the ability to make its MLB broadcasts and programming available to subscribers across other venues and grant it the opportunity to use more footage and highlight clips on websites like Bleacher Report. Turner also gets the chance to create other products around its TBS game broadcasts.
“This agreement positions both organizations for mutual growth by continuing Postseason coverage on TBS, delivering a new Tuesday night Baseball franchise, and expanding baseball’s presence on Turner Sports’ digital platforms,” said Robert Manfred, MLB’s Commissioner, in a statement.