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Braves' TV deal changes; games move off Peachtree TV

The 45 Braves games that have been televised locally on Turner Broadcasting’s Peachtree TV in recent seasons  will move to Fox Sports South and SportSouth this year.

The shift means that the two Fox-owned cable channels will have rights to all of the Braves’ local telecasts — 150-plus games per season — and that Turner will be out of the Braves TV business for the first time since the mid-1970s. It also means the last of the Braves’ telecasts are moving from a free over-the-air station, which Peachtree TV is in Atlanta, to cable.

The change came as a result of the Braves and Turner Broadcasting ending their agreement on the 45-game package, and the Braves reaching a deal to consolidate those games with the other 105-plus already shown on the Fox channels, according to Braves executive vice president Derek Schiller.

Neither the Braves nor Fox would reveal terms of the deal. But the Braves acknowledged it will somewhat improve their local TV revenue, which has been a source of concern because of long-term contracts signed before a recent explosion in rights fees.

“Suffice it to say that this is a better deal for us,” Schiller said. “But we’re only talking about 45 games.

“We’re not reopening all 150. It would be improper to compare and contrast this against some of those teams that have had the opportunity to open up all 150 of their games and bring them to a competitive marketplace and start anew. This is not that.”

This season’s plan is to televise 72 Braves games on Fox Sports South and 80 on SportSouth, said Jeff Genthner, the networks’ senior vice president and general manager. The numbers can fluctuate depending on how many Braves games are picked up by Major League Baseball’s national TV partners.

The latest change in the Braves’ TV picture completes a long trend of the team’s games moving away from Turner networks.

The Braves became known as “America’s Team” when almost all of their games were televised nationally on TBS, beginning in the 1970s. The number of Braves games on TBS declined gradually over the decades as many shifted to regional cable — first Turner owned-networks and later Fox’s. Turner Broadcasting took Braves games off national TBS entirely after the 2007 season.

In 2008, Peachtree TV — available in the Atlanta market — began airing the 45-game package. In 2011, Turner turned over daily management of the station to Meredith Corp. At the same time, Turner entered into an agreement for Fox to produce and sell advertising for Peachtree TV’s Braves telecasts, as well as to air them in the Southeast outside the Atlanta market.

The latest step is the natural progression of the earlier moves, Schiller said.

“It does show the evolution of (Turner’s) business as well as our own business,” Schiller said. “We have nothing but fond memories of what Turner has accomplished as a partner with the Braves and as a former owner of the Braves. But their business has evolved to the point where they’re more concentrated on some of their other, primarily national networks.

“As much as we’re fond of the way Turner has handled us in the past, we’re excited about the future of combining all 150 games with one entity.”

Turner spokeswoman Misty Skedgell said in a statement that the company reached the agreement with the Braves to assign Peachtree TV’s rights to the games “in exchange for other consideration.”

The only way for a regular-season Braves game to appear on a Turner network this season is as part of TBS’ national Sunday-afternoon MLB package.

Schiller and Genthner said viewers will benefit from finding the Braves’ local telecasts on two channels instead of three, but the removal of games from Peachtree TV continues the trend of sports events shifting off free television.

Genthner said Fox Sports South’s Braves telecasts will be “primarily weighted” toward Friday-Saturday-Sunday games and SportSouth’s toward Monday-through-Thursday games “to cultivate a sense of appointment viewing.”

Chip Caray and Joe Simpson will continue to call the games.

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