TBS has gained exclusive television rights to the new American League and National League wild card playoff games this year and next, and the MLB Network will air postseason games for the first time, it was announced Thursday.
MLB’s new postseason format, which was unveiled in March and brings two additional wild card teams into the playoff mix, will feature the two wild card qualifiers in both leagues playing in a single-elimination game. The winners advance to compete with the three division champions from its league in the division series round, followed by the two league championship series and then the World Series.
“We believe the additional single-elimination wild card spots will build upon the popularity of the sport and serve as a great launching pad for our division series and ALCS coverage on TBS,” said David Levy, president of sales, distribution and sports for Turner Broadcasting System.
The cable network also will continue to televise any necessary regular-season tie-breaker games.
Meanwhile, two division series games this year and in 2013 will shift from TBS to the MLB Network. It will mark the first time that the MLB-owned cable network — distributed in about 69 million homes throughout the U.S. and Puerto Rico — will air a postseason contest.
TBS also splits the league championship series with Fox, which has exclusive rights to the World Series. Fox, TBS and the MLB Network air regular-season games, as does ESPN.
Baseball last expanded its playoff format in 1994 with the addition of a wild-card team in each league. From 1969-93, only two teams from each league advanced to the postseason; before 1969, just the two pennant winners made it to the World Series.
Baseball’s 162-game regular season is scheduled to end this year on Wednesday, Oct. 3, with the World Series set to start on Wednesday, Oct. 24.