ESPN, MLB Ink 8-Year Pact

NEW YORK ESPN has reached an eight-year regular season cable-TV rights agreement with Major League Baseball that will continue to allow ESPN to carry Sunday night MLB games exclusively.

The pact also allows the Bristol, Conn.-based network to continue to televise a Wednesday night game, as well as televising a new Monday night game that will co-exist with those being aired by local market carriers.

The new deal also re-ups ESPN and ESPN2’s Baseball Tonight, with games-in-progress highlights and live cut-ins.

The pact runs from 2006 through 2013. No dollar figure was disclosed.

MLB’s current Tuesday-Thursday package, to which ESPN also holds the rights to through the end of next season, is still up for grabs, meaning that Comcast’s OLN can still get a piece of the major league’s telecast pie.

That package right now includes the MLB division playoff games that Fox does not air. That package was obtained when ESPN parent Disney acquired Fox Family Chaannel (now ABC Family) and is currently valued at $100 million.

ESPN is also paying $141.5 million for the current Sunday-Wednesday package.

The new Sunday-Monday-Wednesday package will include up to 80 regular season telecasts per year; no blackout restrictions on exclusive Sunday Night Baseball; up to five appearances per team per year on the exclusive Sunday Night Baseball series; MLB Home Run Derby on ESPN; a new afternoon batting practice program; and for the first time, the 11 p.m. SportsCenter on ESPN will present a nightly Baseball Tonight update featuring in-progress highlights. The package also includes 10 spring training games and MLB Opening Day coverage.

The telecast rights are across ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN HD, ESPN Deportes and ESPN International. The deal also includes archival footage and game programming and Instant Classic rights for ESPN Classic.