CBS Makes a Late Pitch to Keep Baseball in Its Picture

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CBS may not be in the baseball picture next season, but apparently the network is going down swinging.

On Thursday, five days after baseball announced a proposed six-year deal with ABC and NBC, CBS made a counteroffer at an owners’ meeting in Rosemont, Ill.

Neal Pilson, president of CBS Sports, said his network had put together the proposal Wednesday.


Pilson said the CBS proposal, unlike the ABC-NBC deal, includes an up-front rights fee plus profit sharing on a two-year contract.

Pilson would not disclose the rights figure, but a source said it was $120 million a year. CBS currently pays about $260 million a year.

“We were not interested in a two-network deal, but after studying (the ABC-NBC deal) we saw our one-network plan as more attractive (to baseball),” Pilson said.

Pilson said the new offer calls for CBS to continue televising baseball in much the same manner it does now. CBS would continue with 16 Saturday telecasts, and all playoff games would be shown nationally.

The ABC-NBC deal calls for regional playoff telecasts.

Pilson said CBS not only studied the ABC-NBC deal but also had discussions with several clubs, presumably major-market clubs.

Unlike the ABC-NBC deal, the CBS offer does not include a new tier of playoffs, but Pilson said that would be a subject of further discussion.


Tom Werner, owner of the San Diego Padres and a member of the baseball’s television committee, dismissed the CBS offer and called it a “13th-hour” move.

Bud Selig, Milwaukee Brewer president and chairman of the ruling executive council, also brushed off the CBS offer, and said there would be a vote within 10 days.

“The committee has spent seven or eight months doing business the way you’re supposed to do business, not playing one against the other,” Selig said.

Said Dick Ebersol, president of NBC Sports: “We’re thrilled that we had a unanimous endorsement for our deal and that the CBS offer was quickly dismissed.”