Citing a “trail of broken promises,” ABC and NBC said Friday they are through with major league baseball in this century, and next year Fox or CBS can have it.
“I can’t imagine being involved in baseball the rest of this century,” NBC Sports president Dick Ebersol said as he and ABC Sports president Dennis Swanson jointly announced the move.
Their decision will dissolve The Baseball Network, a three-way partnership among baseball and the two networks, after only two seasons.
“We were disappointed with their decision to make the announcement at this time,” acting commissioner Bud Selig said in a prepared statement.
“We have been pleased with the direction in which The Baseball Network was heading,” he said. “Advertising sales for this year’s All-Star game are at a record level. However, per our contract, the subject of renewal did not have to be rushed.”
The networks wanted an an early decision on renewal, baseball said, but the terms of the contract said Major League Executive Council and the Television Committee did not have to respond by Nov. 1.
Ebersol, however, said he and Swanson had seen enough.
“This isn’t a ploy,” Ebersol said. “Neither of us will be involved in the bidding next year. I’ll tell you how bad it got. This is the first time in history that two competing organizations, the country’s two leading networks, have reached the same conclusion - to get out of a sport.”
Both Ebersol and Swanson said their decision came after baseball ignored a plea by the two networks to begin the six-year deal anew with this season, canceling out the strikeshortened 1994 season.
“The fact of the matter is, major league baseball seems incapable, at this point in time, of living with any longterm relationships, whether it’s with fans, with players, with the political community in Washington, with the advertising community here in Manhattan, or with its TV partners,” Swanson said.