Major League Baseball has a shorter regular season, but the playoffs have been expanded. In a widely expected move fueled by television rights, MLB and its players association said Thursday that the 2020 postseason will now have 16 teams and begin with eight best-of-three Wild Card Series preceding the Division Series.
All of the new postseason games will be exclusively televised by ESPN and TBS, with ESPN holding exclusives on seven of the eight series. MLB clubs unanimously approved the expansion of the postseason via conference call this afternoon, with the players also on board.
MLB baseball makes the bulk of its television rights revenues for the postseason contests, when ratings zoom in cities that have teams participating.
“We are excited to announce the expansion of the 2020 postseason,” said Commissioner of Baseball Rob Manfred. “This season will be a sprint to a new format that will allow more fans to experience playoff baseball. We look forward to a memorable Postseason concluding a year like no other and appreciate the continued partnership and enthusiasm of ESPN and TBS.”
Tony Clark, the executive director of the MLBPA, was equally effusive. “The opportunity to add playoff games in this already-abbreviated season makes sense for fans, the league and players. We hope it will result in highly competitive pennant races, as well as exciting additional playoff games to the benefit of the industry and all involved heading into next year.”
The higher seeds in the Wild Card Series will host all three games, which will be scheduled for Tuesday, September 29th through Friday, October 2nd. The entire 2020 Postseason schedule will be announced in the weeks ahead.
“This is an exciting opportunity for ESPN and Major League Baseball to deliver a new, compelling live sports experience to fans,” said Jimmy Pitaro, ESPN president and co-chair, Disney Media Networks. “Innovation has been a cornerstone of our 30-plus year relationship with MLB, and that will be on display as we showcase these decisive games. We know fans have been craving live baseball and we’re proud to work with our friends at MLB to offer what will be a special four days this fall.”
ESPNwill also have the exclusive rights to 2020 first round MLB games on national radio and Spanish-language domestic television as well as rights on International television.
The league originally imposed a September 27 cutoff for the regular season in order to have a legitimate postseason, featuring the usual 10 teams.
To be eligible for the postseason, a player must be added to the Major League roster by Sept. 15.