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MLB Finalizes Rights Deals With Fox, Turner

It's official now: Fox and Turner will remain in Major League Baseball's dugout into the next decade.

As expected, Major League Baseball officially announced its new eight-year media rights deal with Fox Sports Media Group and Turner Sports on Tuesday, extending their relationships as national TV partners from 2014 through the 2021 campaign. MLB renewed its agreeement with its other national broadcast partner, ESPN, in August.

At the same time, in-house service MLB Network will keep its hand in the postseason and will televise some of the sport's key events.

MLB commissioner Bud Selig Terms said on a conference call with reporters that MLB tallied some $12.4 billion in its new rights deals with the incumbents, more than doubling the value of its current contracts, which expire after the 2013 season. Published reports have Fox paying $525 million per year, whileTurner will allocate over $325 million yearly. ESPN is spending more than $700 million per year under its new deal.

Fox broadcast retains the rights to the sport's jewels -- the World Series and All-Star Game. Moreover, Fox will gain rights to two of the four Division Series, which are currently part of TBS's lineup.  The American and National League Championship Series will continue to alternate each year between TBS and Fox, as is the case under the present pact. The two Division Series that Fox and Turner will air will also rotate between the senior and junior circuits each year.

During the regular season, Fox will double its Saturday "Game of the Week" telecast windows from 26 to 52 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. and the three hours thereafter. The deal also strikes out the Saturday blackouts of out of market games for MLB Extra Innings and MLB.TV subscribers.

Moreover, FSMG scored the rights to as many as 40 single game windows on a nationally distributed Fox channel. Randy Freer, co-president of FSMG, would not specify where those games would air, but did say that "we continue to evaluate the potential of a national sports channel." Freer declined to further address the "hypothetical nature of the channel."

FSMG also gains rights to develop MLB-branded programs, expanded footage and highlights for linear and digital platforms, TV Everywhere and Spanish-language rights for Fox Deportes.

For its part, Turner will not only drop two of its division series, but will also see TBS's Sunday afternoon slate halved to 13, with those games scheduled during the final three months of hte season. As a trade-off, David Levy president of sales, distribution and sports, Turner Broadcasting, said  on the call that the blackout in the home markets of the participating clubs will be lifted, and the telecasts will air side-by-side with the local telecaster.

TBS, which currently airs both games of the new Wildcard Round, which begins this Friday, will only air one under the new agreement, alternating between AL and NL, with ESPN presenting the other.

Turner, though, said it vastly expanded its digital rights under the new contract, securing access to more footage and highlight rights across all MLB contests for its recently acquired property, Bleacher Report, as well as interactive television rights for its Team Stream app.  Turner also gains "TV Everywhere" rights across computers, smartphones and talblets that will enable TBS to simulcast its MLB games and related programming across Turner platforms.

Levy said that gaining expanded MLB digital and TV Everywhere rights are "essential parts of our programming and content strategies."

Under the pact, a pair of division Series games will air each year on MLB Network, which kicks off its inaugural postseason telecasts next week. The league network -- currently counting some 70-million subscribers -- will begin airing All-Star Futures Game and the MLB All-Star Game Selection Show, which has been airing on TBS, starting in 2014.

MLB Network president and CEO Tony Petitti said the two Division Series games will be "the culmination of our season and will help grow our network." He later noted that the "relative strength of content guides the growth of distribution. This is high-quality programming."