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MLB, ESPN Announce New Broadcasting Contract Through 2028

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured Columnist IVMay 14, 2021

AP Photo/Matt Slocum

Major League Baseball isn't leaving ESPN's airwaves anytime soon.

On Thursday, the league and network announced a seven-year contract extension that runs through 2028. ESPN will show 25 weeks of Sunday Night Baseball, the MLB Little League Classic, an Opening Night game and the Home Run Derby as part of the deal.

It will also carry wild-card games in the postseason.

The deal is not limited to the primary channel, as games will air on ESPN+ and ESPN Radio. ESPN Radio will broadcast the World Series.

There is something of a caveat in the new deal, as the playoff format for the 2022 season is still undetermined to this point. The league expanded to eight wild-card playoff series during the shortened 2020 campaign with the first- and second-place finishers, as well as two additional wild cards per league, qualifying for the postseason.

It is back to the traditional format with just the one wild-card matchup per league this year.

If there is expansion to eight series in 2022, ESPN will carry every one of the games. If there is not, the network will receive eight additional regular-season games per year.

Joe Reedy of the Associated Press (h/t Washington Post) noted this extension comes at a time when Sunday Night Baseball viewership is up 34 percent compared to last year and has grown since it was moved to a 7 p.m. ET start time.

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Reedy also noted MLB's rights deals with Fox, Turner and ESPN are now all scheduled to end after the 2028 campaign. Fox and FS1 air games on Saturdays, while Turner will air games on Tuesday nights starting in the 2022 season.

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