Major League Baseball has reached an agreement with the players union to end a three-month lockout. The new agreement will open the door for next month’s season.
According to a union spokesperson, team owners still need approval for the tentative agreement with Major League Baseball Players Association. ESPN reports that the opening day has been set for April 7th, a week later than expected, with 162 games in total.
This deal saves MLB from a possible disaster. MLB was already struggling to cope with the decline in TV viewers. They were also looking for speeding up games, now that they are averaging three hours. Baseball has been more difficult to sell to a young generation that has grown up watching YouTube videos of the games.
The deal is good news for TV networks including AT&T Inc.’s WarnerMedia, Walt Disney Co.’s ESPN, Fox Corp. and Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc., which air the games.
The league is also trying to reach cord-cutters who don’t get cable TV. On Tuesday, Apple Inc. reached a deal with Major League Baseball to air Friday night games on its streaming service, marking the iPhone maker’s first major foray into sports broadcasting.
The sport needs to find more ways of attracting new fans. The lowest attendance since 2006 was 68.5 million. Last year saw a rebound in TV viewing, as the World Series audience increased by 20% to nearly 12 million viewers on Fox. This was still a significant drop from the 2016 peak of 23.4million.
After their labor contract expired, owners locked the players out in December. The players association said salaries weren’t keeping up with revenue and sought changes to a system that the union said offered big paydays to a handful of free-agent stars but didn’t benefit many others.
The league announced Wednesday that it would cancel more games following two late-night negotiations which failed to produce an agreement.
—Brian Eckhouse provides assistance