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MLB and Fox are talking about extending their World Series coverage deal

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Billions (plural) of dollars are reportedly involved.

Al Yellon

Fox-TV and Major League Baseball currently have a contract for the network to televise postseason baseball through 2021. According to Andrew Marchand of the New York Post, that deal could soon be extended:

Major League Baseball and Fox are moving toward a new multibillion-dollar deal to extend the network’s longtime hold on the World Series for the foreseeable future, The Post has learned.

Sources said MLB is open to doing an extension with Fox because it is happy with the relationship, and it would be receiving a substantial enough increase without going on the marketplace.

The current deal that Fox has with MLB runs through 2021. At that time, the network will have been broadcasting the World Series for a quarter century. Fox has reportedly been paying $525 million per year.

Marchand’s article doesn’t give specific dollar figures for a Fox/MLB contract extension, but the phrase “multibillion-dollar” would imply that the $525 million a year that MLB is currently getting from that deal would go up. Since all 30 teams share in that money equally, every team would get a revenue boost from a new Fox deal.

If you are not a fan of Joe Buck — and honestly, he’s a competent PBP guy — this will be of interest to you:

Joe Buck has been the mainstay as the play-by-player on Fox since Jeter’s Yankees won their championship in ‘96. Buck recently extended his contract with Fox, agreeing to call the Series through 2021, but he left open the possibility of not continuing after, if Fox retained the rights to MLB’s most marquee event.

Be careful what you wish for if you wish Buck off the MLB postseason. You could wind up with someone you like even less.

If Buck does indeed hang up his baseball microphone after 2021, I’d love to see MLB go back to something they did for World Series games in the 1960s — bring in the local broadcasters to call some of the action. For example, you can hear Harry Caray, then the Cardinals play-by-play announcer, in the booth along with national announcer Curt Gowdy in this video from Game 6 of the 1968 World Series (he can be heard throughout, but scroll in to 58:20 for one longer sequence of Caray):

Having a participating team’s announcer be part of the broadcast crew for a World Series game (or really, any postseason game) would be not only a nice reward for the local broadcaster, but would bring more in-depth knowledge of the team to a national audience.

Perhaps they could have one broadcaster from the home team in each postseason game join a national announcer for the telecast, as they did in the 1960s. Or, with the number of TV channels available now, why not do what CBS does for the NCAA basketball tournament and have a “TeamCast”? It probably wouldn’t work for anything but the World Series due to the number of channels that would have to be involved for division series or championship series games, but wouldn’t it have been great to hear Len and JD call the Cubs vs. Indians World Series in 2016? The casual fan could watch the national broadcast while more hardcore fans of the teams involved could watch the “TeamCast.” Added up, they’d all count for ratings purposes.

Marchand’s article concludes with this note:

MLB is not believed to have started any new formal negotiations with ESPN or Turner, its two other national partners.

In my view, MLB should drop Turner as a broadcast partner. Their announcing teams are generally second-rate, the production values are poor and the visual coverage is often mind-bogglingly bad. I don’t know if ESPN would want to pick up more postseason baseball than it now carries; perhaps MLB could partner with NBC, which has a national cable sports channel looking for programming, for some early-round games.

2021 might be just the time for Fox to get more creative with postseason coverage and give dedicated fans of playoff teams a little more local flavor.