Summer 1997: 75 Years of National Baseball Broadcasts
1997 marks both the 50th anniversary of the first World Series telecast and the 75th anniversary of the first World Series radio broadcast. Here's how much MLB has realized from its national TV and radio deals:
1922-33 World Series broadcast nationally with no rights fee charged.
1934-37 World Series radio rights to Ford for $100,000/year.
1938 World Series radio rights "sustaining."
1939-45 World Series radio rights to Gillette for $100,000/year.
1946 World Series radio rights to Gillette for $150,000.
1947 World Series rights to Gillette: $65,000 TV, $175,000 radio.
1948 World Series rights: $140,000 TV, $150,000 radio to Gillette; All-Star Game TV rights for $2,500.
1949 World Series rights: $200,000 TV, $150,000 radio to Gillette; All-Star Game TV rights for $25,000.
1950 World Series rights: $800,000 TV, $175,000 radio to Gillette; $50,000 more for All-Star Game.
1951 World Series rights: $925,000 TV, $150,000 radio; All-Star Game $110,000 from radio and TV.
1951 ABC airs the first prime-time network baseball series: two hours on Saturday nights, May-September, showing the women's professional league.
1952 World Series: $925,000/$200,000 .
1953 World Series: $925,000/$175,000/$100,000 for pregame TV. Cleveland, Philadelphia and Chicago White Sox authorize ABC to telecast a Saturday Game of the Week from their parks over a 17-station network. These aren't "national" broadcast contracts, though; like other weekend baseball telecasts through 1964, they're assembled through negotiations with individual teams to telecast games from their home parks. Until the Sports Broadcasting Act of 1961, antitrust laws barred "pooled rights" TV contracts negotiated with a central league broadcasting authority.
1954-55 World Series: $925,000/$150,000/$100,000 pregame.
1956 World Series: $925,000/$125,000/$100,000.
1957-61 Five-year NBC/Gillette contract: MLB gets $3 million/year for the World Series, $250,000 for the All-Star Game.
1962-66 Five-year contract with NBC, paying $3.5 million/year for World Series TV/radio, plus $250,000 for All-Star Game (doubled in years with two All-Star Games).
1965 Networks reject MLB's proposed Monday night Game of the Week package, but ABC pays $5.7 million for a Saturday/holiday Game of the Week. Package, covering all teams except the Yankees and Phillies (who have their own deals), calls for two regionalized games on Saturdays, Independence Day and Labor Day, blacked out in the home cities of the clubs playing those games. This package ends NBC's Saturday-Sunday Game of the Week, and limits CBS's to the 12 weekends when its new subsidiary, the New York Yankees, play at home. At the end of the season, ABC declines to exercise its $6.5 million option for 1966, citing poor ratings, especially (and not surprisingly) in New York.
1966-68: NBC signs a three-year contract covering the 1966-68 regular seasons, 1967-68 World Series/All-Star Game (it already owned rights to the '66 Series/ASG). NBC pays roughly $6 million/year for the Games of the Week, $6.1 million for the 1967 Series/All-Star Game and $6.5 million for the 1968 events, bringing the total value of the contract up to $30.6 million. The Game of the Week includes 25 Saturday and three Monday night telecasts.
1969-71: NBC buys rights to the 1969-71 Game of the Week, All-Star Game, LCS and World Series for $49.5 million. Game of the Week includes the same 25 Saturday and three Monday night games as before
1972-75: NBC signs a four-year, $72 million contract covering 10 Monday night games (with local blackout), 26 Saturday afternoon games, All-Star Game, LCS and World Series, with all weekday Series games played at night.
1976-79: NBC and ABC pay $92.8 million for a four-year contract. ABC pays $12.5 million/year to show 16 Monday night games in 1976, 18 in next three years, plus half the postseason; NBC pays $10.7 million/year to show 25 Saturday Games of the Week and the other half of the postseason. Networks alternate playoffs/All Star Game and World Series. CBS Radio pays $75,000/year for rights to the postseason games.
1980-83: NBC and ABC pay $175 million to renew their packages for another four years. In addition, in 1980 22 teams (all but the Braves, Astros, Mets, Cardinals) take part in a one-year cable deal with UA-Columbia, airing a Thursday night Game of the Week in markets at least 50 miles from a major league park. The deal earns MLB less than $500,000, but leads to a new two-year contract for 40-45 games per season.
1984-89: NBC and ABC sign TV deal covering 1984-89. ABC airs Monday night games and some late-season Sunday afternoon games, plus half the postseason; NBC, 30 Saturday afternoon games and a few prime-time, plus the other half of the postseason. At one point, CBS was interested in a pact which would have called for three interleague games every Thursday night (only), with AL East teams playing the NL East, AL West playing the NL West. Breakdown:
1983 - $20 million in advance from the two networks
1984 - NBC $70 million, ABC $56 million, total $126 million.
1985 - NBC $61 million, ABC $75 million, total $136 million.
1986 - NBC $75 million, ABC $66 million, total $141 million.
1987 - NBC $81 million, ABC $90 million, total $171 million.
1988 - NBC $90 million, ABC $96 million, total $186 million.
1989 - NBC $106 million, ABC$125 million, total $231 million.
$9 million/year more in any season with best-of-seven LCS (adopted in 1985).
1990-93: CBS pays $1.1 billion for 1990-93 rights: $275 million/year for the World Series, LCS, All-Star Game and 12 regular-season weekend games. CBS loses more than $400 million on this contract. ESPN pays $400 million for 1990-93 cable rights to six games/week (Sunday, Wednesday and doubleheaders on Tuesdays and Fridays, plus holidays). CBS Radio pays $50 million for 1990-93 radio rights to a Game of the Week plus ASG, LCS and World Series.
1994-95: MLB, ABC and NBC form a joint venture called The Baseball Network. The venture, scheduled to run through 1999, is terminated by agreement after two years. Under the agreement, the networks pay no rights fees; instead, MLB receives 87.5% of the first $160 million/year in net revenues, 1/3 of the next $30 million, and 80% of revenues above $190 million/year; the networks get the rest. CBS had offered $130 million/year to renew its previous contract, and WTBS had offered $40-$45 million/year for rights to another round of playoffs. The Saturday Game of the Week is abolished; regular season telecasts are limited to regionalized night games in the final 12 weeks of the regular season, to be split between the networks. Each year one network gets the All-Star Game and LCS; the other gets the first-round playoffs and World Series. The first-round playoffs and first five games of the LCS are regionalized. MLB also signs a six-year, $255 million contract with ESPN for a Sunday night Game of the Week and Wednesday night doubleheader, and a six-year, $50.5 million contract with CBS Radio.
1996-2000: MLB signs new contracts with Fox, NBC, ESPN and Fox/Liberty Media Cable:
Fox: $575 million for three World Series, two All-Star Games, one LCS per year, five first-round playoff games per year, and a Saturday afternoon Game of the Week with one-hour pregame show, half of which is directed to children. The Game of the Week features up to four regionalized telecasts, with exclusivity from 1-4 PM in each time zone. The Game of the Week begins Memorial Day weekend in 1996 and 1997, but may start earlier in future years.
NBC: $400 million for two World Series, three All-Star Games, one LCS per year and three first-round playoff games per year. No regular season telecasts. (The difference between the Fox and the NBC contracts implicitly values Fox's Saturday Game of the Week at less than $90 million for five years.)
ESPN: $440 million for a Wednesday doubleheader and Sunday night Game of the Week, as well as all postseason games not aired on Fox or NBC. MLB staggers the times of first-round games to provide a full-day feast for viewers: ESPN could air games at 1 PM, 4 PM and 11 PM EDT, with the broadcast networks telecasting the prime-time game.
Fox/Liberty Media Cable: $172 million for two games/ week in 1997-2000. This joint venture airs games on its choice of two weeknights other than Wednesday, with no exclusivity.
Copyright © 1997 Doug Pappas. All rights
Originally published in the Summer 1997 issue of Outside the Lines, the SABR Business of Baseball Committee newsletter.