If you’re trying to find the logic behind Major League Baseball’s owners making worthwhile amendments to their “best and final” offer last week, look no further than the announcement of new streaming deals. To be sure, the league was hoping to have held off news of these deals until after a new CBA was in place because the optics created by adding $200 million in broadcast revenue aren’t flattering.
That’s the minimum total MLB figures to get from a combination of ESPN, Apple, and NBC, the latter of which has reportedly reached an agreement to stream Monday and Wednesday games. According to Mike Ozanian of Forbes, the two-year deal will pay $30 million annually and will “mainly” be featured on NBC’s Peacock streaming platform.
Not much is known about the specifics of the deal, but it could be non-exclusive just like the ESPN games were. That means they will be broadcast by both Peacock and each teams’ RSN, though the former will likely be subject to local blackouts just as they have been in the past. Of course, NBC may have negotiated exclusivity, which means no blackouts but no availability to customers without Peacock.
ESPN gave up most of its regular-season programming as part of a restructured deal that would have seen the league pulling in about $150 million less per year over the next seven years. NBC’s re-entry into the market only makes up 20% of that loss over two of those years, but Apple’s agreement covers the whole stretch at another $85 million annually ($55 million in rights and $30 million in advertising).
The kicker is that ESPN has an agreement with MLB to broadcast the first round of the postseason for at least $85 million, bringing the total “new” money to $50 million ($85M + $85M +$30M – $150M). It’ll be $65 million if the playoffs expand to 14 teams (ESPN’s deal bumps to $100M), but the latest reports were that things are holding at 12 for the time being.
While the league is still left with a five-year gap following the conclusion of the NBC deal, those non-exclusive weekday games are gravy in light of the bigger deals for Fridays and the playoffs. MLB’s total broadcast rights revenue will be at $1.96 billion in 2022, a 26% increase over last year. Not only do the owners know that, but now everyone else does as well. Makes it a little more difficult to lament revenue difficulties and resists good-faith negotiations, huh?
It’s still entirely possible that Wednesday comes and goes with little or no additional progress, but it does feel as though the external pressure might be enough to move the owners closer to the middle. If, that is, enough of them stop being too afraid of Steve Cohen to get off their cheap asses and stop holding this thing up.