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Baseball Lockout's Potential Financial Fallout

MLB locked the players out for the first time since 1990
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The MLB locked out its players Thursday, ending the longest era of labor peace in the sport since free agency was instituted, but what comes next for the country's oldest sports league. 

TheStreet spoke with Matt Martell, SI's MLB editor, discuss what the financial fallout from Thursday's move could be for the league and its partners. 

"ESPN probably won't feel much of an impact from the lockout until April when they'd be broadcasting their first regular season games, but even then, ESPN could easily air alternative programming that would probably yield decent ratings," Martell said.

ESPN, which is 80% owned by Disney  (DIS) - Get Walt Disney Company Report, and the MLB reached a new 7-year contract extension earlier this year that reportedly pays the league nearly $4 billion. 

Teams around the league usually get the bulk of their television revenue from the local deals they sign. 

The teams that own their own networks (the Yankees with YES Network, Chicago Cubs with Marquee, Baltimore Orioles with MASN etc) will feel less pressure than those who rely on outside deals with the likes of Bally Sports and NBC sports, according to Martell. 

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The sports entertainment landscape has shifted immensely since the league last lost games in the mid-1990s with digital avenues changing the way people consume all forms of entertainment. 

"Baseball risks losing its casual fans the longer the lockout lasts and people start watching other sports on TV, other shows/movies on streaming platforms," Martell said.

So what is the issue in the first place? 

MLB players fought to have the strongest union of the four major sports leagues (NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL) and subsequently it is the only one without a salary cap. Owners see that differently

The NHL had the last major work stoppage in the 2012-2013 season when 60% of regular season games were cancelled. The NBA lopped off 16 games from its regular season schedule in 2011 during its labor dispute. 

The NFL has had the most labor security, despite a player lockout that lasted from March 12, 2011 through July 25, 2011. No games were cancelled during that dispute.