Braves' run on TBS to end in '07

Braves' run on TBS to end in '07

PITTSBURGH -- For more than two decades, TBS was known primarily as the channel that carried Braves games and "The Andy Griffith Show." Beginning next year, it will gain a new identity through its broadcast of postseason baseball.

Just before the start of Tuesday night's All-Star Game at PNC Park, Major League Baseball announced its new television agreement for 2008-2013. Beginning in 2007, the agreement provides Turner Sports the rights to all Division Series games. Starting in 2008, they'll have the rights to provide 26 Sunday afternoon regular-season broadcasts.

At the same time, TBS announced that next season will be the final one in which it will exclusively air Braves games for a national audience. Beginning in 2008, the only regular-season broadcasts will be those Sunday afternoon contests, which may or may not feature the Braves.

"It's a landmark day for Turner," Turner Sports President David Levy said. "We've been covering baseball either through ownership or television for the last three decades. This brings us into a fourth decade. This is something we're very proud of. We love the relationship with baseball. This adds to it."

Ted Turner's historic decision to begin beaming Braves games to a national audience came in 1977. This is the 30th consecutive season in which the team he formerly owned has benefited from the national attention it receives courtesy of TBS' coverage.

But as TBS has changed its identity and such sitcoms as "Friends" and "Seinfeld" have generated more advertising revenue, the network has started to decrease its Braves coverage. During the 2007 season, it will carry 70 Braves games. After that, the national exclusive relationship between the two will essentially be over.

"Unfortunately, we can't have it all, and some things had to give," said Levy, a staunch Braves fan. "Ultimately, it came down to a financial situation."

Though fans in such places as South Dakota and Oregon won't benefit, WTBS -- the channel's local Atlanta feed -- will carry at least 45 games per season from 2008-13. These games also could be carried on TBS in the club's six-state home territory, which includes Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee.

With this new agreement, TBS will choose each of its 26 Sunday afternoon broadcasts. The network has the opportunity to choose one team up to 13 times, meaning that the Braves would likely be included in at least a few broadcasts.

Beginning this year and extending through the life of the agreement, TBS will have exclusive broadcasting rights to all tiebreaker games needed to determine division winners or Wild Card entrants. In addition, the network will begin carrying the All-Star Game selection show next year.

But the jewel of the deal for Turner Sports is the exclusive rights to carry all the Division Series games for each of the next seven seasons. If any of the past 15 years are any indication, the Braves will appear in at least a few of those broadcasts.

"Postseason baseball is something Turner has always looked at as an opportunity," Levy said. "We're not a 24-hour sports channel, so we have to pick and choose what we can put on our air and what makes sense for us from a brand standpoint and marketing standpoint. Postseason baseball fits that criteria."

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.