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Fox, Turner to Keep MLB: Sources

7/23/2014 7:58 PM Eastern

After evaluating changes, Major League Baseball appears poised to keep its roster of national rightsholders intact.

MLB, according to sources familiar with the negotiations, is expected to announce eight-year rights renewals with Fox Sports and Turner Sports as early as this week. The agreements, though, will result in a change in baseball’s lineup, with Fox taking a more significant cut of the action and perhaps using the national pastime to seed a muchdiscussed national cable sports network.

Baseball decided to go the incumbent route after negotiations had included Turner teaming with CBS, and NBC Sports in the mix.

According to sources and published reports, Fox’s deal will include the retention of the All- Star Game and add more contests to its Saturday game-of-the-week package.

During the postseason, Fox will reclaim two of the four Division Series, while also keeping one of the League Championship Series and the World Series in its dugout. Two of the Division Series games will continue to air on MLB Network, the league’s in-house service.

Importantly, TBS will lose two of the four Division Series under the new deal.

The “very funny” network currently presents all four Division Series under the contract that expires with the 2013 season. It would continue to air one of the League Championship Series, alternating leagues each season with Fox.

TBS will also carry one of the new Wild Card games under the new deal — it has both during 2012 and 2013 — with ESPN presenting the other.

Like ESPN’s recent eight-year, $5.6 billion renewal, Fox ($500 million) and TBS ($300 million) are expected to double their combined outlay to some $800 million annually.

Fox’s MLB play could be especially significant if it uses some of the regular-season and Division Series games as building blocks for Fox Sports One, a national network that could be converted from Speed, with the flag possibly dropping in fall 2013. Fox has amassed a formidable portfolio of rights from which it could draw: the NFL, NASCAR, UFC, the Big 12 and Pac-12 conferences, and various soccer properties.

News Corp. chief operating officer Chase Carey, at an investment conference, downplayed reports that the company would convert Speed as “rumors and speculation.”

Fox officials acknowledged negotiations with baseball, but declined further comment.

Turner, MLB and MLB Network officials declined to comment.

September