Major League Baseball and Barstool Sports have had significant negotiations about having national midweek games on the site’s platforms, The Post has learned.
The discussions are what Barstool founder Dave Portnoy was referring to last week when he mentioned his company has had talks with “major leagues.”
MLB and Barstool potentially could team up to create a new type of broadcast with a focus on in-game gambling.
The talks have started recently, and while they have picked up steam, an agreement is not yet a certainty. One source deemed it “50-50.”
MLB and Barstool declined to comment.
Major League Baseball currently has national TV deals with Fox
Turner and Disney’s
ESPN. As part of its new ESPN contract that begins next year, the network dropped regular, non-exclusive Monday and Wednesday games, leaving MLB trying to find a buyer for that inventory. Turner, owned by AT&T’s
WarnerMedia, will move its regular-season games to Tuesday, from Sunday, beginning next season.
YouTube is a possibility for the midweek national games, as it already has streamed MLB games for three years. Comcast’s
Peacock just did a weekend series last month, as well, and is seen as a contender.
But Barstool sticks out because it has the connection to a younger audience MLB craves and could possibly create buzz with its alternative delivery approach. Barstool would be expected to deliver the games through its website, Instagram and Twitter
accounts, among others.
Barstool recently announced that it would be a title sponsor and broadcaster for college football’s Arizona Bowl. The platform is expected to soon sign other deals for live rights.
As is Barstool’s wont, the Arizona Bowl broadcast is not expected to be traditional in its delivery, which could appeal to MLB.
Noah Garden, MLB’s chief revenue officer, has been wanting baseball to become younger. He has not been shy about expanding into gambling, and he likes the idea of alternative broadcasts.
The “Bettor’s Eye,” a baseball betting-focused show, was scheduled for Monday and new episodes are planned for the next three Mondays on MLB Network. Previously, segments of the program have run on MLB Network.
MLB Network, during a few of its games this season, has featured what it termed the “Clubhouse Edition” approach with CC Sabathia, among others, on hand.
On Tuesday night, MLB Network’s game between the Cubs and Brewers will have Sabathia, Jason Kendall, Matt Vasgersian and Mark DeRosa hanging out.
For Barstool, it is trying to be at the center of the convergence of sports gambling, media and now, potentially, live games.
Barstool’s parent company, Penn National, just bought the Canadian betting app, theScore. It has sportsbooks in several states with the list growing. And now it is moving into live rights.
There is one major issue that all potential streamers have to overcome to make in-game gambling a reality. The lag time between live action and the stream must be eliminated if betting in-game is to become a reality.
Doing business with Barstool could come with controversy for MLB, as Barstool has been accused of being misogynistic. But Barstool has been embraced by many top major leaguers, including Bryce Harper, making it possibly a popular choice among some players.
If the games are nonexclusive, Barstool probably wouldn’t have to do the production, as it could take feeds from regional sports networks (RSNs). Barstool then could produce its own nontraditional, gambling focused broadcast without a play-by-play voice and analysts. Its relaxed approach could feature Portnoy, Dan (Big Cat) Katz and, for say, a Yankees game, Eric Hubbs, who writes about the team for the site.
If a deal is completed and it is nonexclusive, the games would likely still be broadcast on RSNs, making Barstool’s stream an alternative broadcast. That means local fans who want the traditional approach would not be disrupted.