Baseball is certainly one of the most followed games in the United States, Canada and many parts of North America. The game has also got huge followers in other parts of the world including the Caribbean, South and Central America and some parts of East Asia. Though the baseball stadiums often get filled-up with thousands of spectators, baseball on TV is equally popular among the followers of the game. In fact, majority of the fans follow baseball on television, as everyone doesn’t often have the opportunity to go to the stadiums.
The Brief History
It’s a match between Princeton and Columbia, played on May 17, 1939, which was televised for the first time in the history of baseball. The match was broadcast on New York based W2XBS, which later became WNBC-TV. The same network also aired Major League Baseball game (between Brooklyn Dodgers and Cincinnati Reds) for the first time on August 26 in the same year.
In 1948, Boston Braves clinched the National League and then decided to sell the television rights of their home games. This also led to fall of home attendance as the fans preferred to watch the match on television.
In 1964, six clubs of MLB got $1.2 million from NBC as their matches were broadcast nationally. In 1966, New York Yankees joined the package of NBC, which called for 28 games.
In 1969, the number of teams in MLB went up to 24, which again raised the local TV revenues to $20.7 million. Baseball became more popular on television, especially after the 1975 World Series.
Baseball on Cable TV
Baseball also made a debut on cable television, when a match between Los Angeles Dodgers and Chicago Cubs was broadcast on cable TV on July 17, 1964. In 1980, UA-Columbia made one-year cable deal with 22 teams. In 1989, ESPN struck a $400 million deal with Major League Baseball, where it telecasted more than 175 games in 1990. In the next 4 years, ESPN telecasted 6 games in every week. ESPN reviewed the contract in 1994 for another six years for $42.5 million per year. However, the deal became void next year, which forced ESPN to restructure their contract. In 1996, it again struck a 5-year deal with MLB for $440 million. It started telecasting Sunday night Game of the Week and Wednesday doubleheader.
In 1997, Fox also came into baseball telecast, when it went for a joint venture with Liberty Media Cable for four years. It started telecasting Thursday night game on Fox Sports Net.
The Present Telecast
Fox Broadcasting Company renewed their contracts (through 2013) with Major League Baseball on July 11, 2006, which gave them exclusive rights for broadcasting World Series as well as the All-Star Game. It also has got the rights to telecast Saturday Game of the Week.
In 2008, TBS got the rights to telecast Sunday afternoon Game of the Week. TBS also has the rights to telecast Division Series in both leagues as well as the All-Star Game Selection Show. TBS struck another deal in 2006 that allowed them to telecast National League Championship Series (in odd years, starting from 2007) and American League Championship Series (in even years, starting from 2008).
Television Networks Broadcasting Baseball
Right from the beginning, a number of television networks broadcast baseball matches in USA, Canada and other parts of the world. Following are the national television broadcasters that broadcast baseball matches.