Last weekend, I wondered whether or not ESPN’s deal to air games from the Sugar Land Skeeters of the Atlantic League could lead to a more widespread footprint on national television for Minor League Baseball. Well, wonder no longer – Minor League Baseball has reached an agreement with CBS to air a weekly Thursday night game on the CBS Sports Network.
15 games will be aired this year, and the first airing took place on Thursday, with the Indianapolis Indians (Pirates affiliate) taking on the Pawtucket Red Sox (obviously, a Red Sox affiliate). The rest of May’s schedule was announced in the press release.
May 8th: Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs (Phillies) vs Charlotte Knights (White Sox), 7 PM
May 15th: Albuquerque Isotopes (Dodgers) vs Fresno Grizzlies (Giants), 10 PM
May 22nd: Durham Bulls (Rays) at Columbus Clippers (Indians), 7 PM
May 29th: Iowa Cubs (Cubs) at Memphis Redbirds (Cardinals), 8 PM
The contract between the two parties also contains flex scheduling, allowing CBS Sports Network to air games featuring teams in contention for the playoffs later in the year. All of the games announced so far feature AAA teams, though the door is still apparently open to air games from leagues aside from the International League and the Pacific Coast League.
While this isn’t a game-changer, especially considering CBS Sports Network’s modest reach compared to NBCSN and Fox Sports 1, let alone ESPN, it’s a good first step for both Minor League Baseball and CBS Sports Network.
Maybe in 2015, if the agreement is extended, we could get even more games on CBS Sports Network and they could try to build themselves as something like “your home for Minor League Baseball”. The network really could use a kick in the rear, and adding an untapped commodity like Minor League Baseball could be a huge boon for them. With the increased focus fans are putting on prospects, and the amount of money being spent on subscriptions to prospect-focused sites, airing minor league games could be a goldmine for the right partner.