TBS, MLB Strike Long-Term Braves Deal

TBS will remain the home base for national Atlanta Braves telecasts through 2012 as part of a deal reached Thursday between Major League Baseball and Turner Sports.

Beginning in 2008, the comedy-tinged network will air 45 games per year through 2012, but it will have the option to air as many as 125 games on other regional and local networks within the Turner family, including regional sports service Turner South, according to Turner Sports president David Levy. TBS will continue to air more than 70 Braves games over the next two years.

“The Braves have been a foundation for TBS and part of the heritage of our programming, and this deal allows us to keep the team on TBS,” Levy said.

While TBS will air fewer national telecasts, the deal could be a boondoggle for regional sports and entertainment network Turner South. Braves games have been a ratings juggernaut for the 7.6 million-subscriber network: During this past summer, the network’s 53 Braves telecasts consistently ranked among the top-rated shows for all national, ad-supported basic-cable networks, according to Nielsen Media Research.

Levy added that the deal does not preclude Turner from acquiring another national baseball package.

He said the network would be interested in FSN’s suite of weekday games and postseason telecasts that currently air on ESPN and ESPN2. Those rights -- originally held by Fox Family Channel through 2006 but moved to ESPN following parent The Walt Disney Co.’s 2002 acquisition of Fox Family -- could be part of an overall Fox renewal of its broadcast deal with baseball, which ends after the 2006 season.

“We’re always talking to MLB about other opportunities if they become available,” Levy said.

The Turner deal also leaves the league with more than 100 national baseball telecasts to sell to other cable providers through 2013. Baseball executives would not comment on plans for those games.

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.