TBS will remain the home field for national Atlanta Braves telecasts through 2012, as part of a deal reached last Thursday between Major League Baseball and Turner Sports.
Beginning in 2008, the comedy-tinged network will air 45 games a year through 2012, but will hold the option to air up to 80 more 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 in both the 2006 and 2007 seasons.
“The Braves have been a foundation for TBS and are part of the heritage of our programming. This deal allows us to keep the team on TBS,” he said.
While TBS will air fewer national telecasts, the deal could be a boon for regional network Turner South. Braves games have been a ratings juggernaut for the 7.6 million-subscriber service: During this past season, the network’s 53 Braves telecasts consistently ranked among the top-rated shows for all ad-supported basic cable networks measured by Nielsen Media Research.
Levy added the that deal does not preclude Turner from acquiring another national baseball package. He said the network would be interested in Fox Sports’s suite of weekday games and division series post-season telecasts that currently air on ESPN and ESPN2 if available.
Those rights — originally held by Fox Family Channel, but assigned to ESPN following parent The Walt Disney Co.’s 2002 acquisition of Fox Family — could be part of an overall Fox Sports renewal of its MLB broadcast-television deal, which ends after the 2006 season.
Spokesman Lou D’Ermilio said Fox Sports continues to negotiate with MLB about renewing a package.
“We’re always talking to MLB about other opportunities if they become available,” Levy said.
The Turner deal also leaves Major League Baseball with more than 100 national baseball telecasts to sell to other cable providers through the year 2013.
MLB executives would not comment on its plans for those games.
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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.