Sky Italia picks up MLB rights

Pay-television broadcaster Sky has agreed a two-season rights deal to cover Major League Baseball in Italy.

The deal takes in the impending 2020 season, as well as the 2021 campaign. Sky will commence its coverage with today’s (Thursday’s) season-opener between the Washington Nationals and New York Yankees.

It will offer at least two games per week during the regular season, with Italian commentary, before providing complete coverage of the playoffs and the World Series. Games will be broadcast on the Sky Sport Arena channel.

The MLB was part of subscription OTT broadcaster DAZN’s portfolio when it launched in Italy in August 2018.

In March, MLB expanded its international rights deal with ESPN to cover more territories in Europe and Africa. The new agreement, covering the 2020-21 seasons, included live over-the-top rights across much of Europe and all of sub-Saharan Africa, bringing MLB to the ESPN Player subscription service to 96 countries across the two continents.

ESPN Player also carries the league-owned MLB Network and Italy was one of the nations to receive regular, post-season and MLB Network coverage.

Though exact rights vary depending on the specific market, the new deal with ESPN covered both regular season, with up to 10 live games per week, midseason jewel events such as the All-Star Game, Home Run Derby, and the reprise of the London Series that began last year, as well as postseason play.

Just three days after releasing its revised 2020 schedule that was heavily reduced due to Covid-19, Major League Baseball this month completed its 2021 schedule, with plans in place to start a full, 162-game regular season for each team on April 1 next year.

The overall slate is premised on the expectation that MLB will be able to stage a complete season next year. MLB intends to have 2021 be the first season since 1968 to have all 30 teams open their campaigns on the same day, a goal that had previously been established for the 2020 season before the arrival of the pandemic, but not realised.

The 2021 regular season is also slated to conclude on October 3, with both the start and finish of next year nearly a week later than what was originally contemplated for the 2020 campaign.