The regular 2023 MLB season is now over, and it is one more reminder that Disney will have to decide if it wants to renew its contract with the MLB for Sunday Night games when the 2025 season ends.
According to a report from the NY Post, Disney has an out in its contract that will allow ESPN to drop MLB games after the 2025 season saving the network about $500 million per year. With ESPN looking at needing to renew its NBA contract and pay for an expanded College Football playoff, you can see why the network may want to do that. According to the report, ESPN has yet to decide if they will renew or not, but the option is on the table.
At the same time, ESPN may end its partnership to show MLB games on its flagship ESPN network it may try to get more games on ESPN+. According to the report, Disney wants to offer an ESPN+ tier where team fans can pay extra to watch local games streaming online through ESPN+.
Disney has a lot of options for how it will handle these talks. It could try to bundle its ESPN games with a possible ESPN+ deal. At the same time, Disney may use the trouble with Bally Sports to push a streaming-only package that could be more lucrative for teams than some other options they may have if Bally Sports goes under.
The MLB’s future on ESPN may also depend on what deal ESPN gets for the NBA next year. If Disney needs to pay more for the NBA contract, that raises the question of where the money will come from with the growth of cord cutting. With MLB national TV numbers down in 2023 at the same time that NBA TV viewership is growing, it may make Disney open to putting its MLB money into a future NBA contract.