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Disney, MLB agree to scaled-back ESPN broadcast schedule

Major League BaseballMajor League Baseball and Disney agreed to a new seven-year ESPN broadcast schedule that sees only 30 exclusive game broadcasts, but with the possibility of more expanded-playoff matches.

According to MLB, ESPN will exclusively televise 30 regular-season games annually, including 25 editions of Sunday Night Baseball, the national MLB game of the week, and the MLB Little League Classic. ESPN will exclusively televise five additional games each season, including the national Opening Night telecast. ESPN will continue to exclusively carry the Home Run Derby as part of its cross-platform MLB All-Star coverage. For each of its live events, ESPN will receive the rights to produce alternate presentations across its platforms, as well as the opportunity to simulcast all ESPN and ABC game telecasts on ESPN+.

This is a scaled-back commitment from Disney. The new deal goes into effect in 2022.

The hidden value here for Disney may be the possibility of an expanded playoff package; MLB wants to see expanded playoffs, while the players oppose one. ESPN will exclusively televise the entire MLB Wild Card Series starting in 2022, if the event expands. ESPN carried seven of the eight MLB Wild Card Series in 2020. If the current Wild Card format remains consistent, ESPN will continue to exclusively televise one of the two MLB Wild Card Games, and will receive eight additional exclusive regular-season game telecasts each year.

The new contract is valued at $550 million per season, or 22 percent less than the current Disney/ESPN rights deal.

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