ESPN Gets Cable Rights to Baseball, Starting in 1990

Times Staff Writer

Calling it an exceptional deal for baseball fans, Commissioner Peter Ueberroth Thursday announced that ESPN has acquired cable television rights to major league baseball, beginning in 1990.

ESPN, which got the rights with a 4-year, $400-million agreement, will televise 175 games a season, with single games Sunday and Wednesday nights and doubleheaders Tuesday and Friday evenings.

The cable network will also televise games on opening day and holidays and will show 6 to 10 spring training games.

“Fans will now be able to see all the teams from both leagues,” Ueberroth said. “Also, ESPN will be able to switch from one game to another. If a kid pitcher up from the minors is pitching a no-hitter for the Texas Rangers, ESPN can pick up that game in the ninth inning.”


Asked about fans who can’t get cable or can’t afford it, Ueberroth said: “The number of games on free over-the-air television is continuing to increase. Also, cable is now available in 87% of the homes in the country and it could be 90% by the time this package takes effect.”

ESPN is in 50.1 million homes, or 55.5% of the nation’s television households.

Thursday’s deal was announced less than a month after CBS agreed to a 4-year, $1-billion-plus contract to televise the playoffs, World Series, All-Star game and 12 regular-season games.

ESPN outbid Turner Broadcasting, SportsChannel America and the USA network for the cable package. Ueberroth said ESPN and Turner were the finalists.

The package also includes:

--A special half-hour highlights show every weeknight.

--Coverage of the Equitable Old-Timers All-Star game as well as additional All-Star game-related programming.

--A season-opening special.

--Special World Series programming.

Ueberroth said superstations such as Chicago’s WGN and Atlanta’s TBS would continue televising baseball.