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Around the Business of Baseball

Posted By Wendy Thurm On October 2, 2012 @ 1:30 pm In Daily Graphings | 14 Comments

In September, we reported a number of stories related to the business of baseball.  There have been some recent developments, so we now provide this update.

Getting Home From Late-Night Nationals’ Postseason Games

We reported in mid-September about the difficulties facing Nationals fans when weekday games run very late due to the midnight closing time of the Washington Metro (the subway operated by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority). The issue had been brewing all season, and with the Nationals headed to the postseason — when games traditionally start later to accommodate the national TV broadcasts — concerns were raised about how to ensure that Nationals fans could reliably get home from weekday postseason games.  The Metro will stay open an hour later, but only if the person or company requesting the additional hour pre-pays a deposit of nearly $30,000.  The Nationals seemed poised to make that deposit, until Major League Baseball expressed concerns about “setting a precedent.”

Now Living Social, the daily deals company located in Washington, D.C., has stepped forward to make the $30,000 deposit and guarantee up to two hours of extra Metro service for all weekday Nationals games during the postseason. The Washington Post reports that Living Social contacted WMATA last week to make the arrangement. The deal was announced at a news conference last Thursday attended by representatives from Living Social, WMATA and the Nationals.

The Post also reports that over the summer, the D.C. government granted Living Social $33 million in tax incentives to keep the growing company — and its employees and tax revenues — in the District. It’s not completely surprising, then, that Living Social would step up and pay for the late-night service. It is, of course, also good public relations for the company.

In addition, Living Social’s agreement to fund the extra subway service moots the dispute between the Nationals, who wanted to make the deal, and MLB, which was apparently concerned about setting a precedent for the other 29 teams. MLB’s concerns never made much sense, given the subway and rail service offered in most major-league cities. Instead, a private company has come the rescue in what appears to be the never-ending corporate sponsorship of everything related to Major League Baseball.

A New Regional Sports Network in Houston

In August we reported on a dispute between the new FoxSports San Diego and several cable and satellite operators in the San Diego area that kept about 40 percent of San Diego residents from being able to watch Padres games at home this year. The Padres own only a 20 percent equity stake in FSSD and have not been able to forge an agreement between the station and the cable and satellite operators.

Monday marked the broadcast debut of Comcast Sports Houston, a new regional sports network in the growing NBC Sports Group. The Houston Chronicle reports that the Astros own 46.384 percent of the new channel while the Houston Rockets of the NBA own 30.923 percent. The Chronicle notes:

Astros games will continue to be available, pending distribution deals, across Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Arkansas and New Mexico. But they will face competition from Fox, which will air a full schedule of Rangers games in Houston.

The reference to “pending distribution deals” refers to the arrangements between Comcast Sports Houston and the cable and satellite operators that tripped up much of the Padres fan base this season. There is no information to suggest that those agreements won’t be worked out before the beginning of the 2013 baseball season.

The note about the Rangers games broadcasting in Houston is also interesting. Dallas and Houston — separated by 240 miles or so — are not in the same MLB territory. That doesn’t preclude the Rangers from broadcasting games to the Houston area, of course. Look at the Giants and the A’s, who we know don’t share an MLB territory. Those two teams broadcast their games into the same area, on sister stations, no less. But the Astros and Rangers will be direct competitors next season, when the Astros move the American League West. It will be interesting to see if the new in-state rivalry boosts ratings for either or both teams.

Lawsuit To Stop The A’s Proposed New Ballpark in San Jose

In early September, we reported on the lawsuit filed by a group known as Stand for San Jose to stop the City of San Jose from completing a land sale to the A’s for the purpose of building a new ballpark. The lawsuit was filed last December, but things were quiet until the A’s, with support of the City, filed a motion with the Court to take the sworn testimony of Stand for San Jose’s members — with the goal of showing that the group is just a front for the Giants, and does not represent actual San Jose taxpayers.

A short update here: Judge Huber of the Santa Clara Superior Court held a hearing on the A’s motion last Friday, September 28. The judge took the matter “under submission” which means he will will issue a written ruling in the near future. Stay tuned.


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