Wednesday, Fox and MLB came to a brand new $5.1B deal that will keep the tv schedule looking mostly similar for another seven years past the current deal which was set to expire at the end of the 2021 season.
That $5.1B is about 39% higher than the current deal, according to the Sports Business Journal. The current deal between the two is worth about $525 million per year, compared to the $728.6M per year the extension will bring to MLB. The Game of the Week, All Star Game, a LCS/LDS each postseason, and the World Series will all continue to air on Fox as they have in recent years. There’s also some potential for other weeknight games as part of the deal, as well.
The most interesting part to a lot of baseball fans should be the digital aspect. Here’s where things are a bit different than with the previous deals. The first aspect is a potential jump further into digital with the invested-in-by-Fox streaming company, Caffeine.
For people that aren’t familiar with Caffeine, it’s a streaming site (currently in a pre-release) much like Twitch where broadcasters host all sorts of content from gaming, to e-sports, to whatever, but the difference is the advertising. Users will be able to purchase things from broadcasters using micro-transactions and if all goes to plan, limited to no ads, unlike Twitch and the free version of YouTube.
What that exactly means is yet to be seen. This is all speculation, but it isn’t out of the question for MLB to use this platform to stream baseball content with hosts/analysts of some sort breaking down content much in the way that gamers talk to subscribers/viewers while they stream. It would be something that would set apart baseball from the other major sports considering most of the other shows on Twitter/Twitch/YouTube that do live commentary don’t have the rights to show the actual games during streams. This opens up a whole realm of possibilities for Fox’s coverage and their attempt to stay current with how people consume content.
The other aspect of the announcement, was the inclusion of a separate deal between MLB and DAZN to stream MLB content. Much like the Caffeine deal, it’s not known specifically what it means other than they won’t be streaming full games. The expected result will probably be a “NFL Red Zone” style show or something close to that. MLB Network already does a show similar to this but we all know that it’s not unheard of for there to be multiple shows on multiple platforms breaking down a particular sport.
DAZN is a unique streaming platform led by former ESPN boss John Skipper, that is broadcast in several different countries and currently carries all sorts of different sports, like soccer, boxing, and darts. The service is new to the US and along with this deal with MLB, has inked deals in combat sports like boxing and MMA. English boxing promoter Eddie Hearn’s Matchbook Boxing signed an exclusive deal with DAZN earlier this year and when HBO announced they would be discontinuing boxing coverage Canelo Alvarez signed an 11-fight, $365 million deal with the streaming service.
While it remains to be seen what exactly all of these deals mean for us, the baseball consumer, it’s definitely exciting to see so much money flowing into baseball. We can also at least say baseball is trying to appeal to new audiences and find new ways for fans young and old to connect to the game. The next hat to drop in the broadcasting realm will be the regional sports networks previously owned by Fox that have to be sold off as part of the Fox/Disney merger. Fox Sports and NBC Sports seemed to be the most likely to pick those networks up but neither has yet to show any interest according to Sports Business Journal.