We've written at length about the MLB TV rights, which will be up for bidding in the offseason. Turner won the rights to the wild card playoff games, and we didn't even consider the possibility of NBC getting in on the act. During our podcast with John Ourand last month, he predicted that the current rights holders (Turner, ESPN, and Fox) would re-up with MLB. However, there's one little wrinkle that's popped up this month that has me wondering if NBC is going to make a play for MLB rights… and that is a little show called Caught Looking.
What *is* Caught Looking? Well, it's a "behind the scenes" look at MLB, with this show focusing on a different weekend series every week, with exclusive clubhouse access, interviews, and the such. It kind of reminds me of The Franchise on Showtime, but more condensed. The show matches some of the other high quality documentary-style programming that's hot right now. With its own behemoth network, there's no reason MLB couldn't just broadcast the show on there instead of on NBC Sports Network. But NBC's willingness to collaborate with Major League Baseball on this show, and air it on one of their channels, makes me think that they're going to make a play for the MLB rights when they come up.
NBC hasn't had any MLB rights since the 2000 season, and aside from a small gap from 1990-1993, held MLB rights since way back in 1947. NBC (along with ABC) was also involved in a precursor to MLB Network in 1994 (The Baseball Network), which drew ratings in 1994 that Fox has yet to match since gaining MLB rights in 1995. However, the Baseball Network would have resulted in mass uprisings in the year 2012, thanks to the nationwide blackouts it enacted.
At any rate, I'm sure that NBC would love to get MLB rights back. This column from Richard Sandomir is a great look at a possible MLB-NBC marriage and why it makes sense. Caught Looking might not necessarily be a precursor to anything, because The Franchise has aired on CBS-owned Showtime for two seasons now, and there aren't any rumblings about CBS going after MLB rights. Caught Looking also continues NBC's original programming push and opens up a different fanbase that may not otherwise tune into the network.
With Bob Costas (and possibly Dan Patrick) in the fold at NBC, the network has a built-in talent base ready to cover a World Series if need be. The battle for MLB rights isn't necessarily going to be a breeze for the current holders, and I think NBC is going to put together a huge offer for MLB. Caught Looking may be just the beginning.