Major League Baseball reaches agreement with players’ union, ending lockdown

Major League Baseball has reached a new labor agreement with its players’ union, ending a three-month lockout and paving the way for the start of the season next month.

The tentative agreement with the Major League Baseball Players Association has yet to be approved by team owners, a union spokesman said Thursday. Opening day is scheduled for April 7, a week late, and the league is expected to play a full 162-game schedule, ESPN reported.

The deal averts potential disaster for MLB, which was already dealing with the loss of viewers and looking for ways to speed up games that now average more than three hours. Long contests have made baseball a harder sell for a younger generation raised on YouTube clips.
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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 broadcast the games.

The league is also trying to reach cord cutters who don’t get cable TV. On Tuesday, Apple Inc. struck a deal with Major League Baseball to broadcast Friday night games on its streaming service, marking the iPhone maker’s first major foray into sports broadcasting.

But the sport will need more resources to reverse declining interest, even from its loyal fans. Attendance fell to 68.5 million in 2019, the lowest since at least 2006. TV viewership rebounded last year, with World Series viewership on Fox up 20% to nearly 12 million viewers. Still, that was well below the recent peak of 23.4 million in 2016.

The owners locked out the players in early December after their existing employment contract expired. The players’ association said wages don’t keep up with income and demanded changes to a system the union says offered big salaries to a handful of free agent stars but didn’t benefit many. ‘others.

On Wednesday, the league announced it was calling off more games after two late-night negotiating sessions failed to produce a deal.

With the help of Brian Eckhouse


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