There's $1 billion worth of baseball to be squeezed in somewhere among year-round football on commercial television in the five-year span 1984-88, and that's no figure plucked from the air: NBC Sports has just committed half a billion to the majors for rights to half the sport's network telecasts--and offered to match that $500,000,000 for the other half.
The contract announced yesterday by NBC and Commissioner Bowie Kuhn leaves that other half open to matching bid from ABC (which has right of first refusal on renewing its share, and is expected to decide by next week) or, ABC unwilling, from CBS.
Either way, forget seeing any Orioles (or other favorite in other localities) on local telecasts Saturday afternoons (or any time a network game is on)--forget it unless you're into cable and/or pay-TV. For its investment, NBC will gain the "exclusivity" that ABC already enjoys for its Monday night baseball, save for an exemption for closed-circuit outlets (in which individual clubs are grabbing increasing pieces of the action).
The contract replaces a four-year $192 million deal with ABC and NBC that expires at the end of 1983 season. From that package, each of the 26 clubs got $1.9 million a year. The new one will pay each team $7.5 million a year.
That's a lot of commercials, like the upcoming Billy Martin one in which he manages a softball team that is leading, 15-0, so he waves in Rodney Dangerfield to pitch the final inning, and . . . yeah.