Here's Why Baseball Games Start At Such Odd Times

If you tuned in to the World Series recently, you might've had trouble keeping track of the game times. Game 1, for example, started at 8:03 p.m. EDT. This isn't just a World Series quirk, either; regular season Major League Baseball games have odd start times too. Is there something particular about baseball that requires this? Yes and no. The National Football League does it, too. In MLB's case, the start times have been influenced by pre-game festivities, team ownership, and above all, TV broadcasts.

Marketplace points out that the National Basketball Association does its pre-game ceremonies after the game's official, listed start time. MLB, on the other hand, is up-front about the fact that if you tune in at 8 p.m., the game won't have begun yet. Before that 8:03 p.m. first pitch, someone will have already sung the national anthem and announced the team lineups. That change happened because of the frustration fans, players, and broadcasters all felt a few decades ago when games didn't start on time.

TV broadcasting schedules

An MLB representative told Marketplace that the odd game times are partially meant to help the regional stations that broadcast the games. Because many will start their broadcast at the top or bottom of an hour, the game times allow them to introduce the matchup, make predictions, and so on. Teams, which usually set the times of their home games, coordinate carefully with broadcasters.

More important than the game preview, however, are the commercial breaks. Most stations want to fit one in between the start of the broadcast and the start of the game. Some networks are guaranteed two, according to Marketplace. Teams' corporate sponsors have influenced these guaranteed commercial breaks. Even as far back as 1939, Gillette Razors paid $100,000 for World Series broadcasting rights and used that sponsorship to take control of many aspects of the series, including scheduling.

The Drum reports that corporate sponsorship of MLB is changing. Brands want to be more integrated with fans and more visible than before. They may be taking a more pervasive approach to TV these days, too.

Ted Turner and TBS

According to Marketplace, MLB's consideration for broadcast schedules increased because of Ted Turner (above), former owner of the Atlanta BravesAn article in an anthology about sports in Georgia, posted at the Society for American Baseball Research, confirms this, saying, "It is absolutely certain that neither professional baseball nor sports broadcasting has been the same since."

Turner bought Atlanta's channel 17 in 1972, when it was floundering. He turned things around fast, and the next year, he won the rights to broadcast the Braves' games. A few years later, he started beaming the signal from his station to a more powerful satellite, so the broadcast could reach farther. In doing so, he created the second national cable channel after HBO, and the first to use satellite technology to reach all 50 states. In 1976, Turner bought the team so they'd stay in Atlanta. His station, TBS, continued airing them nationally until 2007 (via Garden & Gun Magazine).

Once he owned the team, Turner scheduled Braves games to start at 7:05 p.m. or 7:35 p.m to give his broadcasters time for a game preview, and to set the Braves apart from other teams. However, the other teams soon followed suit (via Marketplace). Now, the odd start times are probably here to stay.