A source familiar with the big Disney-BAMTech acquisition tells NBC Sports that, as a result of the deal, Disney will get one major league game a night to stream on its new ESPN-branded streaming service. The game will be behind a pay wall. In exchange Disney will pay Major League Baseball a “significant” sum, over and above what it already pays MLB for ESPN’s broadcast rights and over and above the $1.58 billion Disney paid for the additional 42% of BAMTech it acquired. The exact figures were not disclosed.
The game will not be exclusive, meaning that fans of the local teams involved will still get the exclusive TV broadcast on their regional sports network and out-of-market MLB.tv subscribers will still get the game as well. The game will be an out-of-market game for all ESPN streaming users. It will not be the same game(s) that ESPN already broadcasts on Sunday, Monday and Wednesday nights. The source said that MLB.tv subscribers will see no difference in the product and will not have to subscribe to ESPN’s service to see the same number of games they can see now.
Given that this does not radically alter the existing baseball streaming ecosystem, it would appear that the point of the extra game a night is to give ESPN some reliable, daily actual sports content for its new platform much the way Australian Rules Football and stuff used to fill time on the ESPN network back when it first got going. And, to be clear, as a guy in his 40s who remembers it, I mean that with sincere affection. Actual live sports, even lesser sports, are preferable to studio shout-fests. At the very least, ESPN seems to be acknowledging with this deal that it can’t live on self-produced content alone.
For baseball, of course, it means a “significant” amount of money, whatever that means. But who doesn’t like the sound of that?