Major League Baseball on TBS
|Major League Baseball on TBS|
|Starring||Ernie Johnson, Jr.
Cal Ripken, Jr.
(for more, see below)
|Country of origin||United States|
TNT (overflow playoff coverage)
|Original run||July 1, 2007 – present|
- 1 History
- 2 Scheduling
- 3 Announcers
- 4 Criticism of TBS' coverage
- 5 Digital on-screen graphics
- 6 References
- 7 External links
Pre-2007: relationship with the Braves
Atlanta Braves baseball games had been a local staple on Atlanta station WTBS (which were both owned by Ted Turner), and subsequently nationally with the launch of its national feed, one of America's first superstations. Along with WGN-TV, the station was one of the few broadcasting local sports broadcasts nationally, with some even giving the Braves the title "America's Team". When Major League Baseball realigned to three divisions in each league in 1994, TBS offered Major League Baseball $40-$45 million a year for rights to another round of playoffs (presumably, the newly created Division Series). Instead, Major League Baseball along with ABC and NBC formed a revenue sharing joint venture called The Baseball Network (which was abolished after the 1995 season). Meanwhile, CBS was offering $130 million a year to renew its previous contract (1990-1993) before being shut out, as well.
In 2003, Braves games on TBS began to undergo significant change for the first time in many years. These changes reflected increased rights fee payments to Major League Baseball. In turn, national sponsors could fulfill their advertising commitments by purchasing ads on TBS, in addition to ESPN or Fox. In the process, they let Don Sutton and Joe Simpson be the lead commentators, while longtime play-by-play men Skip Caray and Pete Van Wieren had their roles cut back. This was done in an attempt to combat criticism of Caray's on-air "home team" bias and to market its baseball coverage to non-Braves fans. Meanwhile, the slogan Braves Baseball on TBS was replaced by Major League Baseball on TBS. The move was strongly criticized by Braves fans, the local Atlanta media, and Braves manager Bobby Cox. Over 90% of Braves fans who voted in an online poll conducted by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution preferred Caray and Van Wieren to the more neutral broadcasts. The move backfired, and ratings for the TBS broadcasts declined sharply. After the All-Star Break, TBS brought back Skip and Pete to work with the two analysts, while in the following year, the title reverted to Braves Baseball on TBS.
2007–2013: Going national
Under an agreement signed on July 11, 2006, TBS earned exclusive rights to all Division Series playoff games, one of the League Championship Series, as well as rights to the All-Star Selection Show held in late June or early July, from 2007–2013. A national Sunday afternoon baseball package was also planned starting in the 2008 season. As a part of the deal, it was decided that Atlanta Braves games would now only air locally. On October 1, 2007, WTBS severed its ties with the TBS network to become an independent under the call letters WPCH-TV, branding as Peachtree TV. Along with this, the national TBS feed became available in Atlanta for the first time. Peachtree TV still airs Braves games, but only within the team's market and in Canada due to local laws currently not allowing the "cable" TBS to be shown unbundled in Canada. TBS' games are shown on Rogers Sportsnet in Canada. All games are carried with Spanish language audio over the SAP channel.
Since the regular season package began, several contests aired on TBS have featured the Braves. On October 7, 2010, TBS covered their first Braves postseason game since the start of the package: Game 1 of the National League Division Series against the San Francisco Giants (a 1-0 win for the Giants).
On the July 2, 2011 edition of The CBS Sports Spectacular, TBS' Atlanta based Major League Baseball studio crew of Matt Winer, Dennis Eckersley, Cal Ripken, Jr. and David Wells presented a 2011 Major League Baseball midseason report. This was followed by MLB 2011: Down the Stretch, which aired on September 24. CBS Sports and Turner Sports have in the past, teamed up on coverage of the NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Tournament and the Winter Olympics in 1992, 1994 and 1998. On August 29, 2012, the New York Times reported a potential alliance between CBS and TBS on a Major League Baseball television contract beginning in 2014. According to the Times report, CBS “would most likely want only the All-Star Game and World Series,” an arrangement almost similar to the one NBC had with Major League Baseball from 1996-2000.
For the 2012 and 2013 seasons, TBS has been awarded the rights to televise both Wild Card Playoff games that occur on the day before the Division Series games. In exchange, MLB Network has been awarded the rights to televise two of the Division Series games that previously belonged to TBS. TBS retains the right to any tie-breaker games to determine the team who goes to a Wild Card Playoff game which are considered part of the regular season; this occurred in 2013 with the Tampa Bay Rays and Texas Rangers.
- First program: July 1 – The 2007 MLB All-Star Selection Show
- First game: October 1 – The one game playoff between the San Diego Padres and the Colorado Rockies (called by Don Orsillo and Joe Simpson) for the 2007 NL Wild Card.
- First postgame show: October 2 (Eastern Time Zone), October 1 (Rest of the country) - Inside MLB presented by Captain Morgan hosted by Ernie Johnson, Jr. and Cal Ripken, Jr. immediately after the NL Wild Card playoff.
- First pregame show: October 3 at 2:30 p.m. Eastern time - Chevy MLB on Deck
- First postseason game: October 3 - Game 1 of the NLDS between the Colorado Rockies and Philadelphia Phillies.
- First regular season game: April 6 – Boston Red Sox vs. Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre.
- First interleague game: May 18 – Milwaukee Brewers vs. Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park.
Terms of 2014–2021 contract
On September 19, 2012, Sports Business Daily reported that Major League Baseball would agree to separate eight-year television deals with Fox Sports and Turner Sports through the 2021 season. Fox would reportedly pay around $4 billion over eight years (close to $500 million per year) while Turner would pay around $2.8 billion over eight years (more than $300 million per year). Under the new deals, Fox and TBS' coverage will essentially be the same as in the 2007-2013 contract with the exception of Fox and TBS splitting coverage of the Division Series, which TBS has broadcast exclusively dating back to 2007. More importantly, Fox will carry some of the games (such as the Saturday afternoon Game of the Week) on its new national network Fox Sports 1.
- TBS would have exclusive television rights to one League Championship Series each year of the agreement. As part of the deal, the ALCS and NLCS will alternate each year between TBS and Fox.
- TBS would have exclusive rights to broadcast two of the four MLB Division Series, which will alternate between AL and NL each year.
- TBS would carry one Wild Card Game, presented by Budweiser, which will alternate between the AL and NL each year.
- TBS would also air afternoon games with new co-exist rights on the final 13 Sundays of the regular season as part of the network’s Sunday MLB on TBS Game of the Week package.
- TBS would lose the broadcasting rights to the MLB All-Star Selection Show to MLB Network.
TBS typically begins coverage with the pregame show MLB on Deck, followed by the first pitch of the first game about 38 minutes later. Each day's coverage ends with Inside MLB, its version of Inside the NBA. TBS does not show commercial breaks after the third, and sixth innings (and also after the 9th inning when the game goes to extra innings). Instead, it airs a "Game Break" allowing the studio host and analysts more air time (similar to what is done for British television coverage of an American sporting event). The studio shows originate from Studio J in Atlanta, Georgia, the same one used for TNT's NBA coverage.
During the regular season, TBS broadcasts a weekly game nationally on Sunday afternoons, under the title Sunday MLB on TBS. These games are not exclusive to TBS and are blacked out in local markets to protect local broadcasters. Under the deal, TBS can show an alternate game in those markets, but the network has elected not to do so thus far. Also, despite initial reports that TBS would carry games on Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, and Labor Day, these holiday games are not part of the contract. For many years, games on these holidays were shown on ESPN, but that network has discontinued them (with the occasional exception of when they fall into the regular Sunday/Monday/Wednesday night slots) in favor of other live sports events.
TBS released a partial schedule of its inaugural slate of Sunday games on February 27, 2008. More games would be added as the season progressed, generally two weeks before each telecast date. TBS has the second pick of game after ESPN.
Consequently, due to its non-exclusivity, highlights of a scheduled game aired on MLB on TBS were not shown on the ESPN baseball highlight show Baseball Tonight; instead local broadcasts of the scheduled game were shown. However, highlights of an MLB on TBS game do air on the MLB on Fox weekly program This Week in Baseball (until its 2011 cancellation), as well as MLB Tonight on the MLB Network.
Before the postseason, TBS will air any tie-breaker games for divisional or wild card championships. Should multiple tie-breaking games be played, or if multiple Division Series games are going on at the same time, those additional games air on TBS’ sister station, TNT. However, games between the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox are subject to be moved to Fox.
All games in the Division Series round are presented back-to-back, with each game scheduled for a 3 1⁄2-hour window. If a game exceeds this window, the first pitch of the next game will be switched to TNT. If a game ends within 3 1⁄2 hours, the studio team will return for interstitial programming. TBS' League Championship Series coverage will alternate yearly. In 2007, TBS switched the starts of four games to TNT in the Division Series round because the previous games exceeded the time limit. TNT was also scheduled to air Game 4 of the Diamondbacks–Cubs series, which overlapped with Game 3 of the Red Sox–Angels series, but the former game was not played; the night before, the Diamondbacks completed a three game sweep of the Cubs.
TNT was scheduled to air three entire Division Series games in 2011 due to conflicts with TBS. On October 1, it aired Game 2 of the Tampa Bay Rays vs. the Texas Rangers at 7 p.m. ET, which overlapped with the end of Game 1 of the St. Louis Cardinals vs. the Philadelphia Phillies and the continuation of Game 1 of the Detroit Tigers vs. the New York Yankees on TBS. (The latter was also to have been Game 2, but Game 1 was suspended after 1 1⁄2 innings due to rain.) On October 2, it aired the rescheduled Game 2 between the Tigers and the Yankees at 3 p.m. ET, two hours before Game 2 of the Arizona Diamondbacks vs. the Milwaukee Brewers on TBS. On October 4, it aired Game 3 of the Diamondbacks vs. the Brewers at 9:30 p.m. ET, one hour after Game 3 of the Tigers vs. the Yankees started on TBS. Initially, TNT was not scheduled to air a Division Series game in 2012, due to the MLB Network taking over select broadcasts, but on October 7, Game 2 between the Cincinnati Reds and the San Francisco Giants, scheduled to start at 9:30 p.m. ET, was moved to TNT because of a two-hour rain delay before the start of Game 1 of the New York Yankees–Baltimore Orioles game, which started at 8:40 p.m. ET. The final two games of the Detroit Tigers–Oakland Athletics series were aired in full on TNT due to scheduling conflicts with the Yankees-Orioles series, which aired on TBS due to its higher profile.
Criticism of TBS' coverage
TBS' coverage has been met with criticism by some observers. As with TNT's NBA playoff coverage, MLB playoff games on TBS are not made available to local over-the-air broadcasters in the participating teams' markets. Under the previous contract, ESPN was required to make those games available over the air in local markets.
Following the Philadelphia Phillies' victory in the 2009 NLCS, TBS' Ernie Johnson went to the podium to present the championship trophy. Upon announcing what a pleasure it was for TBS to cover the series, the Philadelphia fans responded with a heavy barrage of boos, to which Johnson quipped "why thank you".
Fans of the Pittsburgh Pirates, who in 2013, enjoyed their first winning season let alone postseason appearance since 1992, took TBS to task for not broadcasting the traditional pre-game player introductions, "The Star-Spangled Banner", or ceremonial first pitch during their coverage of the National League Wild Card playoff game against the Cincinnati Reds.
Some sports media critics were critical of the announcers used in the coverage as being more skewed towards the National League than the American League, along with the choice of Chip Caray (who along the way was criticized for making factual mistakes during postseason broadcasts) as the lead voice of the network's coverage, as he had only done Braves baseball telecasts in the 2007 season before the launch of TBS' playoff coverage. In response to such criticisms, Caray said, "It wasn't the job that I had when I came here in the first place. It would be like being a pinch-hitter or being a relief pitcher that works once every ten days. I'm better when I work more." TBS and Caray parted ways following the 2009 playoffs. Ernie Johnson, Jr., Dick Stockton and Brian Anderson are currently handling play-by-play in his place.
Besides Chip Caray, Dick Stockton's performance has in particular, been subject to criticism. Stockton for instance, during the 2013 NLDS (St. Louis vs. Pittsburgh) was cited as often misidentifying players, generally appearing confused at times, and never got into a rhythm with his analyst Bob Brenly. Meanwhile, Joe Simpson, who was only holdover from the Braves TBS Baseball days has been accused of not really adding anything to the booth and often deferring to John Smoltz during their time together on the 2013 Boston-Tampa Bay series.
Technical difficulties and other graphical miscues
TBS missed most of the first inning of Game 6 of the 2008 American League Championship Series, with viewers getting a rerun of The Steve Harvey Show instead. TBS picked up the game just prior to the last out in the bottom of the first, with announcer Chip Caray apologizing to viewers for "technical difficulties." TBS acknowledged there was a problem with one of their routers used in the broadcast transmission of the relay of the telecast from Atlanta.
During TBS' coverage of Game 1 of the 2011 American League Division Series between the Texas Rangers and Tampa Bay Rays, TBS was alleged to have featured doctored headlines with incorrect attributions. On October 1, during the middle of an at-bat during Game 1 of the 2011 ALDS between the New York Yankees and Detroit Tigers, TBS suddenly cut to Tampa Bay-Texas game, which was airing on TNT for about 14 seconds. Moments later (as TBS was coming out of a replay and showing the Tigers' dugout), cameras missed Yankees right fielder Nick Swisher making a diving catch (instead showing Yankees pitcher Iván Nova walking off the mound and pumping his fist).
TBS has also been criticized for placing the center-field camera precisely in the center. Therefore, every time a pitcher began his windup, his head would block the view of home plate.
During the 2012 American League playoffs, TBS was criticized for their graphics and game preview packages. At the start of their coverage of the American League Wild Card Game between the Baltimore Orioles and Texas Rangers, a graphical snafu resulted in Cal Ripken, Jr., who was calling the game with Ernie Johnson, Jr. and John Smoltz, being credited as "Carl Ripken, Jr.". During their pre-game breakdown of Baltimore pitcher Miguel González at the start of Game 3 of the American League Division Series between the Orioles and New York Yankees, TBS jokingly showed a graphic asking "Who is Miguel Gonzalez?" with an arrow pointing to his photo with the simple reply of "This guy". During Game 1 of the American League Championship Series between the New York Yankees and Detroit Tigers, TBS showed a graphic depicting players who played in the postseason before the age of 24 and after the age of 40. In the graphic, Willie Mays' name was misspelled as "Willie Mayes".
Digital on-screen graphics
Before TBS' broadcast the 2007 postseason, they used a score bug on the top left-hand corner of the screen for their Braves telecasts. It has been upgraded midway into the 2004 season to what it was through 2007.
The on-screen score graphic covers the entire top of the screen, unlike the Braves TBS Baseball graphic, which only took up the left half of the top. The look is almost identical to that of Fox's baseball coverage, except that the illustration of the basepaths is near the left side of the screen instead of flush on the right. The batting order starting lineup used since 2008 resembles that of a cellphone. There is also a pitch tracker that can only be seen on high-definition feeds.
With the start of the 2011 postseason, TBS planned to introduce the following
- Bloomberg Stats: TBS would use Bloomberg Stats as means to integrate comprehensive statistical information into each telecast.
- Liberovision: This is an innovative 3D interactive telestrator meant to give fans a new perspective of instant replays.
- New graphics that intend to feature improved functionality with a nostalgic feel.
- Pitch Trax: An in-game technology that illustrates pitch location throughout the games.
The screen on TBS's standard definition 4:3 feed now airs a letterboxed version of the native HD feed to match Fox's default widescreen SD presentation, allowing the right side pitch tracking graphic to be seen by SD viewers.
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