The Dark Side Of Booming Local TV Deals

Bud Selig has been giddy watching baseball teams attract bigger and bigger local television deals. More local TV revenue to a team means more money for the league to spread via revenue sharing and greater competitive balance. And Bug Selig sure loves competitive balance. On a recent visit to PNC Park, Major League Baseball’s commissioner told Pittsburgh Pirates broadcasters that he got “goosebumps” watching the Reds and Pirates square off in last year’s postseason.

But big local TV contracts aren’t all Skittles and puppies. Certainly not for fans who are forced to pay higher and higher cable and satellite TV bills to watch their home team. Nor for cable and satellite TV customers who don’t care about baseball but have to pay the higher prices as part of their bundled programming.

It turns out that big local TV contracts aren’t always good news for teams either. That has turned Selig’s mood quite sour.

When a regional sports network agrees to pay millions of dollars to an MLB team, that RSN has two principal ways to recoup that investment: (1) sell ads during the game broadcasts; (2) charge a carriage fee to the cable and satellite operators in the region who want to carry the RSN. But what happens when the cable and satellite companies balk at the carriage fees?

The San Diego Padres were the first to find out the answer to that question. When FoxSports San Diego launched before the 2012 season, the RSN was available in only 40% of the San Diego TV market because DISH, AT&T U-verse and Time Warner Cable hadn’t agreed the carriage fee FS San Diego sought to charge. DISH and AT&T came on board before the 2013 season, but TWC held out until this year.

The FS San Diego situation was irksome, but mostly to the Padres and their fans. It didn’t garner much attention from Selig or national baseball writers (although we covered the issue extensively) and it didn’t take long to resolve.

That hasn’t been the case in Houston. Comcast SportsNet Houston launched in October 2012 and, since then, has been seen only by Comcast cable customers. The new RSN  — a joint venture among the Houston Astros, Houston Rockets and Comcast Sports Group — couldn’t come to agreement on carriage fees with any other cable or satellite company in the region. With the RSN bleeding cash, Comcast forced the venture into bankruptcy court last September, where the parties have been fighting ever since. Astros owner Jim Crane also sued Comcast and former team owner Drayton McLane for fraud in the sale of the team. That did not make Bud Selig happy at all.

The bankruptcy process has dragged on, as they often do. The Astros and Rockets have worked feverishly to find a new broadcast partner to buy out Comcast’s interest, and there was news yesterday that such a deal could be close. When and if a deal gets done, though, the Astros will have played at least two seasons with little in the way of TV revenue and without anyone watching their games on TV. Sure, the Astros haven’t had much of a product worth watching the last few years, but their ratings are clearly a reflection of how few Houstonians have access to the games.

That brings us to the Los Angeles Dodgers. As I explained before the season started:

SportsNet LA launched in February with around-the-clock Dodgers programming, but only customers with TWC or Bright House can view the network in their homes.Every other cable and satellite operator in the Los Angeles market has balked at the network’s carriage fee demand. And TWC hardly counts as an arms-length agreement, as it is the Dodgers’ broadcast partner in SportsNet LA. Indeed, TWC will essentially pay itself the carriage fee for SportsNet LA, and then pay the Dodgers their monthly rights fee as part of the 25-year, $8.3 billion megadeal.

No deal’s been reached. A vast majority of Dodgers fans in LA missed Josh Beckett’s no-hitter, Clayton Kershaw’s no-hitter and every Yasiel Puig bat flip — unless they watched with a friend or at a bar with TWC. Even Vin Scully is without Dodgers’ broadcasts when he’s at home during the team’s long road trips.

Now members of Congress and the Federal Communications Commission have stepped in and urged the parties to reach a deal as quickly as possible. A local congressman suggested TWC and DirecTV agree to binding arbitration on the outstanding issues: the carriage fee; length of contract; and whether SportsNetLA would be bundled to every customer, or offered a la carte. TWC is prepared to take the dispute to arbitration and Bud Selig recently chimed in with his support for that plan.

DirecTV hasn’t budged and sports media experts don’t expect that it will. Which means the team in the second-largest TV market in the country, with the largest player payroll in the league, won’t be seen by its local fans as it battles for the National League West title. Bud Selig isn’t happy.

When it comes to Selig, though, these carriage fee disputes pale in comparison to fight between the Washington Nationals and the Baltimore Orioles over the money flowing into the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network. I explained the origins of the dispute in a November 2012 post:

[MASN] was created as part of the deal that moved the Expos from Montreal to Washington, D.C. to become the Nationals. Orioles owner Peter Angelos opposed the move as an encroachment on the Orioles’ exclusive broadcast and commercial region. [This is different from the dispute between the Giants and the A’s over the territorial rights to San Jose and Santa Clara County.] As part of the negotiated settlement between MLB (which then owned the Expos) and Angelos, MASN was created with the Orioles to own 90 percent and the Nationals to own ten percent. The deal also called for the Nationals to be paid $20 million/year in broadcast rights, although that figure would increase by $1 million every season. In 2011, MASN reportedly paid the Nationals $29 million in broadcast fees and $7 million for its now 13 percent share of the network.

The MASN agreement also includes a re-set provision by which the Nationals can re-negotiate the broadcast fee structure every five years. Early in 2012, the Nationals proposed that MASN pay between $100 million and $120 million per year in broadcast fees. The Orioles countered at $34 million per year. The two sides have been in protracted negotiations ever since. Commissioner Selig asked representatives from the Pirates, Rays, and Mets to mediate the dispute. A resolution was expected over the summer but never materialized and the parties reportedly remain far apart.

No resolution came and parties remained far apart, through 2013 and the first half of 2014.

On Wednesday, The Hollywood Reporter published detailed of a secret arbitration overseen by the representatives of the Pirates, Rays and Mets which ruled in favor of the Nationals at the end of June. That sent the Orioles to court in New York in an effort to undo the arbitration. The Nationals countered with their own suit to confirm the decision. Both cases were filed under seal.

Selig was furious.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Selig sent a letter to the Nationals and the Orioles that included this passage:

“Both the Orioles and the Nationals have at various times made threats to institute litigation in connection with this dispute, despite my office’s extended, good-faith efforts to have this matter resolved by agreement. On a personal note, I owned a Club for decades and I can honestly say that under no circumstances would I have threatened, let alone commenced, litigation against Baseball. Please be advised that nothing in the Agreement authorizes the parties to file any lawsuit. … I want there to be no doubt that, if any party initiates any lawsuit, or fails to act in strict compliance with the procedures set forth in the Agreement concerning the [Revenue Sharing Definitions Committee of Major League Baseball]’s decision, I will not hesitate to impose the strongest sanctions available to me under the Major League Constitution.”

No matter. Attorneys for the two teams and MASN have continued to launch attacks and counter-attacks. The Orioles think the MLB-sponsored panel was predisposed to rule for the Nationals because the league stands to gain financially the more the Nationals receive as a rights fee. For their part, the Nationals have threatened to terminate MASN’s license to broadcast their games if the panel’s ruling isn’t confirmed.

The MASN mess may shed some light on Selig’s unwillingness to make a final decision on the Oakland Athletics’ proposal to move to San Jose. He may fear that any resolution of the territory dispute between the A’s and the San Francisco Giants that involves the A’s compensating the Giants could lead to in-fighting for years down the road.

All these TV deal disputes bring to mind the adage “Be careful what you wish for.”

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Wendy writes about sports and the business of sports. She's been published most recently by Vice Sports, Deadspin and You can find her work at and follow her on Twitter @hangingsliders.

88 Responses to “The Dark Side Of Booming Local TV Deals”

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  1. Phillies113 says:

    What if all the local broadcasts were handled through MLB? MLB could license TV operators to broadcast their games traditionally, and they have all games (even local games) available online if they can’t come to any deals.

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    • Pirates Hurdles says:

      Yeah and then you could have equitable revenue sharing like the NFL. Stop treating each team as its own entity and advance the league as a whole.

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      • james says:

        There is a major up front cost here, if now would need to start planning now to change it in 20 years.

        Teams have been around, and popular long enough that there are billion dollar deals in place that span decades. Breeching these contracts would be silly.

        This also ignores the fact that a hand full of teams either own their own RSN (like the Os in the article), or the owner also owns the RSN (like Steinbrenner owning the yankees and YES network). Every one of those groups stand to lose a lot of money doing this

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        • david says:

          Exactly correct. The Yankees are the most valuable american franchise by a wide margin based on the value of the broadcast rights they alone own. Stepping those rights would cost mlb and by extension, all other owners literally billions of dollars.

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      • Mr baseball says:

        MLB and the NFL have nearly the same revenue sharing structure. The difference is local revenues are a much larger share of total revenue in mlb than the NFL. Both leagues share national revenue the same, both share similar percentages of gate. The NFL has had more disputes than mlb over the past 30 years, as a NFL franchise has moved no less than 8 times in the NFL, where it happened once in mlb.

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    • joser says:

      That sounds great in theory, at least for the consumers. Unfortunately, there are a whole raft of implementation details that make it virtually impossible for us to get from where we are now to that beautiful future.

      Right now each of the teams is in some sort of local TV deal, many of them extending years into the future. Since it’s unlikely any of those would get voided, they’d have to wait until those expire to join this new system. But what’s the incentive for the first team or two to join a broadcast consortium that only consists of themselves, and not the other 28 or 29 teams? And what weight does the early version of that consortium bring to negotiations with the cable providers? Once all the teams are involved, sure, MLB would have a strong negotiating position; but as each team’s local deal expires it’s going to look better to them to go it alone than to defer to a nascent MLB consortium. You somehow have to get each team to forgo (real) short-term benefit for (presumed) longer-term gain, and since that’s happening on a different schedule for each team and TV money is what makes them completive and profitable, how do you get the first teams to handcuff themselves like that?

      But to even get there, you’d have to persuade each of the team owners that allowing MLB to negotiate on their behalf, vs doing deals themselves, would result in higher net income to them. Even setting aside ego (the kind of people who end up owning baseball teams tend to be the kind of people who think they can negotiate a more profitable deal for themselves than letting someone else do it), you’ve got the competitive balance / luxury tax issue writ large. How does the money get split up in a way that most teams can agree on?

      And then there’s the cable systems who will be on the other side of these negotiations. They’re already balking at the costs of local deals; how happy are they going to be having to negotiate with a monopoly? Especially one that also (as you suggest) offers a way to go around the cable providers and get the content directly? So you know what the cableco’s first move is going to be? Taking MLB to court over the anti-trust exemption. Which is the last thing MLB wants.

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  2. Theo Fanboy says:

    The Cubs are going to be the only sports entity on earth to have their TV revenue go DOWN during this bubble inflation. You just have to laugh to stop you from crying.

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    • Chicago Mark says:

      Is it really going to go down? I thought they were so low it had no place to go but up.

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      • Theo Fanboy says:

        The cable portion of the Cubs TV rights lasts until 2020, that will remain where it is. The broadcast-only portion is over after this season because the Cubs opted out of a purportedly below-market deal with WGN, only to find that because they weren’t allowed to court cable rights fees and nobody wanted to start a relationship for 2020 since everyone and their sister knows that the cable bubble is getting close to popping, they are left with no interest, no leverage, and increasingly, no real options. CSN doesn’t have room for the games, WGN is on its way out of the sports business and will only pay a cut-rate price well below what the Cubs were getting before, and some of the other proposals that have been floated are incredibly far-fetched.

        When you tie that stuff in with the renovation mess, I don’t think “catastrophic” is too strong of a word to use with respect to the current state of the Cubs business operations, which were just assumed to be guaranteed to become Yankees-lite when Tom Ricketts first bought the team.

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        • worf359 says:

          Thank you Miss Cleo, now since you know exactly what the Cubs’ revenues are going to be in the future, can you tell me what their won-loss record is going to be next year so I can bet the over in Vegas?

          -9 Vote -1 Vote +1

        • worf359 says:

          Like the myth of AL superiority, there is no “renovation mess”. They’re going to get everything they want and the rooftop maggots will scuttle off into the darkness where you should go. The Cubs were the most profitable MLB team last year if you believe one well-known magazine and they’ll be extremely profitable again without a penny of broadcast fees.

          You’re so incredibly biased and stupid I’d think you’re a writer for the Sun-Times (probably with the initials GW).

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        • Chicago Mark says:

          Wow! That got real angry real quick. Let’s try to keep it positive. I did see an article where WGN IS getting out of the sports broadcasting business. To much confusing information for this simpleton to understand and therefore portray to you guys. Chicago is still a huge market. I can’t see the Cubs not getting big $$$ to get something done.
          Thanks for the input all.

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        • Sam says:

          Its looking more and more like Ricketts has more in common with Jeffrey Loria than George Steinbrenner. The Cubs were still the third most profitable team in MLB last year, yet they are always crying poor.

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  3. Anon21 says:

    “I will not hesitate to impose the strongest sanctions available to me under the Major League Constitution.”

    Yes. Selig, it can be your one great act as commissioner: contract the Nationals. Do whatever you like with the Orioles, but bring me Bryce Harper’s head on a spike and I will forever refer to you as Commissioner for Life. (Grand High Commissioner? Title very much negotiable.)

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    • Phillies113 says:

      Have you seen Selig lately? Commissioner for Life could mean Commissioner for the Next 20 Minutes.

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    • agam22 says:

      Real Meaning: “I will not hesitate to leave this for whoever has this job next year to deal with.”

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    • Aaron (UK) says:

      Tragically for you, that threat is aimed squarely at the Orioles, who have lost under the system that Selig set up and are trying to find a way out of that position. All the Nats have done (so far) is petition for the judgment to be enforced.

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      • Anon21 says:

        I get that, but getting rid of the Nationals would also fix this problem. They may be in the right about this revenue dispute, but their general crimes against baseball and good taste are too well-known to enumerate here. Send the godforsaken franchise to a well-deserved grave, Bud!

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      • GiveEmTheBird says:

        I think its more complicated that “petition for the judgment to be enforced”. MASN has to pay both the O’s and the Nat’s the same rights fee. I don’t think MASN makes enough money to pay out $200-$240mm in rights fees and run a network. It seems the Nat’s want MASN to run at a loss because their share of the loss is small and offset by their rights fee. The O’s would participate in most of the loss and therefore make less money that the Nat’s off the network. Market rate can’t be the rate that forces MASN into bankruptcy.

        Plus the arbitration panel has every incentive to make the fee as high as possible – the MLB shares in that revenue AND it provides a high comparison for when they renegotiate their cable fees in the future. The panel has NO incentive to find a middle ground.

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        • Tim says:

          Don’t be stupid on purpose, no team is trying to make them work at a loss, they are simply trying to divide the pizza in half instead of just a sliver for the Nats, and the O’s just want there continuing compensation for the team moving there. Its just like the bay Giants want no competition in the region so they aren’t happy with any compromise that doesn’t end with the A’s leaving, and this shitpig commissioner does nothing to control these petty tantruming billionaires who don’t care at all about baseballs growth and health, only there wallets.

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      • channelclemente says:

        How much, if any, has the Rays rumored desire to move North impacted the climate?

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  4. jdbolick says:

    Great work as always. It’s hard to believe that columns on TV rights fees could be this interesting and illuminating.

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  5. Iron says:

    I’ve been trying to calculate how far in the red the Dodgers are operating this year.

    MLB National TV contract: $50M
    Local TV contract: 87M
    The $8.3B/25 years assumes a $4.30/month for each of 5,665,780 households in LA’s market. Which would be $289M. Only 30% of that market is served currently however by Sportsnet LA.
    Attendance: $71M (based on listed attendances multiplied by last years average ticket price)
    Concessions/Parking/ etc. ?

    MLB Payroll $236M
    Luxury Tax: 14M (Threshold is up to 189M but second year over, so rate increases to 30%.)
    RS $29M
    Non-payroll operating expenses: ?

    Despite the error-bars and unknowns, it is hard to see how the Dodgers aren’t at least $80 million in the red this year.

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    • Scott says:

      Except I think the dodgers themselves get paid regardless of how many people actually subscribe to the network. Its the tv station that takes the hit here – the team gets the full amount.

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      • Iron says:

        Then SportsnetLA goes bankrupt and the Dodgers still don’t get paid.

        I also note I forgot to include servicing of the 1.6 billion in debt the Dodgers took on as part of their $2.2B purchase.

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        • Jim says:

          I’m not an expert on this, but the contract is not with Sportsnet LA, it’s with Time Warner, which is not going bankrupt. And as noted above completely on the hook for the contract regardless of who signs up.

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        • Iron says:

          It’s possible. Time Warner may be taking the beating, and if they have to pay $280M while only getting 40,000 households watching that is an incredible beating. But the details of the deal are not public. I would be beyond shocked when it all shakes out if the terms turned out to be so one-sided.

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        • Tim says:

          Comcast Huston is a Comcast subsidiary, and only they are bankrupt, I assume the same goes for LA where TWC puts the numbers on SLA books, and could declare bankruptcy with the subsidiary only since its contracts are the ones due not TWC.

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    • Sam says:

      You’ve left out merchandise sales, both the Dodgers-only share and their share of the MLB merchandise pie.

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      • a eskpert says:

        The concession is quite significant as well. Additionally there’s MLB advanced Media revenues too.

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    • Shankbone says:

      What doesn’t get reported is the plan to aggressively move the carriage fee from $4-5 a month to $8-10 a month within 4 years. This might be just as important a point as the initial fee being almost as much as ESPN (which is the biggest carriage fee by the factor of 5). The Dodger cable deal is insane, and people have limits on the monthly pay tv bill.

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  6. Pig.Pen says:

    Nationals deal is ridiculous. Other big market clubs are signing deals for hundreds of millions of dollars and the Orioles want to pay the Nats $29M a year. I’m actually beginning to believe that Nationals could find their way out of their MASN deal which would be a lose-lose for the Orioles. Angelos may be a lawyer, but he’s a lawyer who gets hired by people like the Lerners. Also, the fact that just about everyone other than Buck Showalter hates him, doesn’t help Angelos either.

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    • bill says:

      Buck’s just to smart to let you know he hates Angelos. Of course he hates Angelos. Everyone does. The original agreement MLB signed was ridiculous. They never should have let Angelos strong arm them into making it. I’m an O’s fan, but I hope Washington finds a way out of the deal and I wouldn’t be too upset if Angelos gets hit by a truck as he’s leaving the courthouse.

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    • james says:

      Angelos is not a contractual/transactional lawyer. He was a asbestos guy.

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  7. Dick Cheeseburger says:

    Adfreetime + + Roku = me watching a ton of baseball (my home market included) for the cost of one month of cable.

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    • Pig.Pen says:

      If you could expound on this, I would be eternally grateful.

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    • primi timpano says:

      How do you get home market. The only reason I buy cable is for the Rangers broadcasts.

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      • Dick Cheeseburger says:


        I use a Roku and I pay for’s Premium subscription. This allows me to watch all games, except for my home market, on the Roku.

        With Adfreetime (cost: $1.99/month, can cancel at any time), I went into my router settings and play with my DNS settings (I’m not technically savvy, so this is much easier than it sounds — it’s literally a matter of changing some numbers in some boxes). This spoofs my location so doesn’t know where I’m exactly located. I get my games and save a TON of money (plus, I don’t have to deal with this silliness like those locked out of seeing Dodgers games).

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      • BDF says:

        You can also get a VPN, about $100/year. I’m also not tech savvy and it’s easy to do. Also lets me watch all NFL games for free (they’re streamed live in the Netherlands) or you can buy an overseas NFL online subscription that is not available in the U.S.

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      • Though I haven’t used one in years, before my apartment included cable at no extra charge (I’m sure it’s baked in my rent somewhere but I don’t get a discount if I don’t use cable), I used to use a proxy server.

        In a nutshell, MLB.TV reads your computer’s address to determine what market you’re in. If you use a european proxy, you get any game. Not sure if this still works though.

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  8. jfree says:

    How many of these local media deals are basically just accounting fraud and tax shelter games by the MLB owner?

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    • Winking billionaire says:

      None whatsoever.

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    • james says:

      Legal tax shelters. I am not an expert on banking, partnership, taxation or corporate law, so my opinion does not mean all that much. These guys are billionairs, they are smart enough to stay on the legal side of tax dodging.

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  9. Will says:

    Legal wrangling aside, the booming TV revenues are extremely positive for the industry, particularly because they lock in revenue stability for very long periods of time. Even YES had a carriage dispute at inception, but eventually, the providers come around. Also, the increased fees really aren’t a burden to baseball fans because everyone else is basically forced to subsidize our habit. Now, the non baseball fans are getting screwed, btu serves them right for not embracing the national pastime.

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  10. bookbook says:

    Yeah. The Nationals had to agree to give up a significant portion of their revenue potential to be located in the Orioles Fiefdom.

    Any move the Nats can make to get out from under the orange yoke will help.

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  11. Bug Selig says:

    I sure love competitive balance!

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  12. Westside guy says:

    Chalk me up with the group that’s recently chosen to stop paying ridiculous cable television prices just for the privilege of watching my local team (Mariners, in my case). After the last Comcast price increase, we were at $135/month for internet and cable. When we looked at what we were actually watching, though, other than baseball the rest (which is mostly comprised of my wife’s hospital and cop dramas) was on broadcast TV.

    I am a big baseball fan, but not to the tune of $65/month. I’ll happily keep the money and listen to the radio broadcast for free.

    If were to come up with a plan that’d let me watch my local team over the internet – assuming that plan wasn’t priced absurdly – I’d become a yearly subscriber without a second thought.

    +9 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • KG says:

      Use a proxy switcher like SwitchySharp to watch home market games.

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      • Westside guy says:

        I do know how to do that. But I am wishing there was an above-board way, sanctioned by MLB.

        I don’t want to “steal” (from the point of view of MLB) anything… I just want them to acknowledge it’s not 1960 anymore.

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        • james says:

          It is stealing, but i doubt MLB ever does anything about it. Proxy servers are very common, and there are plenty of reasons to use one. Once you are using one, it is a matter of them no longer being blacked out.

          I would need to read the fine print. If they simply black out local games, then you are not breeching the contract since they are the ones making the mistake by not blacking out the right games.

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        • Hungus says:

          To be fair, you aren’t stealing from MLB at all, you’re stealing from your local cable provider. MLB has to put up a few roadblocks to prevent competing with these cable providers, but I can’t imagine this is a top priority for them.

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  13. bluenoser says:

    What is MLB really worried about here other than losing the money it ‘lent’ the team formerly known as the Expos? Why is it implying that it could use the nuclear option of ousting Angelos from ownership (and I guess Lerner as well) if the parties proceed to court?

    Is this an issue that could jeopardize the Anti-Trust exemption that MLB enjoys? Doesn’t the territorial rights issue (both TV and relocation areas) cut right to the heart of the Anti-Trust question. These are all questions that I do not know the answer to, but it seems from reading these articles that this is what Selig fears.

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  14. Hunter says:

    Wendy, thank you! I have to be honest: the business of baseball didn’t use to interest me, and it still doesn’t-unless the article has your byline. Your articles and analyses are always so clear, cogent, and well-written that the make the most “boring” topics an easy, interesting read.

    No other comments, just wanted to let you know you have a fan.

    +10 Vote -1 Vote +1

  15. Jason says:

    Love this stuff. Really appreciate someone summarizing all these different situations.

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  16. BigBird says:

    Once again, Wendy Thurm with the best articles on Fangraphs. Nicely done.

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  17. Patrick says:

    Nice write up, Wendy.

    What we have to keep an eye on is where the revenue coming into major league baseball and its’ teams is coming from. There are revenues from local TV deals, that goes to local teams. That is where the great disparity in revenues is created. Then, there are revenues from “out of market” streams and national TV contracts, which include the Extra Innings package, most playoff games, and the games of the week on Fox and ESPN. MLB gets to divvy those up, unevenly, to “level the playing field”.

    Baseball is unlike other sports, insofar as the primary sources of revenues in MLB are local. In the NFL and other sports, the revenues come more from national contracts. So there is a greater disparity inherent in the system. Selig has worked endlessly to even out the revenues and grow sources outside of local markets, and then implement revenue sharing schemes.

    The growth of these huge local TV deals does bring more money into the game, but it’s very unevenly distributed. Everyone benefits, but the rich are getting much richer.

    When the current CBA expires, there is a sunset provision in the current CBA that ensures there will be no luxury tax in the next agreement. The impact could be devastating on the whole notion of cmpetitive balance, if they don’t replace it with some scheme, preferably on the side of revenue sharing, to keep the ultra rich from buying up every player on the board, without consequences.

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    • Winston says:

      There are already consequences of buying every player on the market: having to pay for every player that you buy. Also, as the Dodgers have already found out, buying every good player that you possibly can isn’t always in the best interest of building a good baseball team. Revenue sharing does not equal greater competitive balance, even if that was something actually worth trying to achieve, which it is not.

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    • Iron says:

      Any new CBA has to be approved by a majority of MLB teams. Any deal without some form of luxury tax, soft cap, whatever you want to call it, would never be approved by the 28 or so teams that receive money under the current arrangement.

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  18. Jim Ray Hart says:

    People are migrating to the Roku / Netflix model,and it makes traditional cable providers vulnerable to losing a ton of market share. This leaves in a sticky situation, don’t want to bite the hand that feeds them.

    Dick Cheeseburger’s adfreetime/roku/mlb hack is brilliant and hilarious, while Bug Selig sends a fax to his Blue Ribbon Committee about the A’s move to San Jose.

    And DirecTV lobbing the middle finger at Time Warner is telling; Time Warner is vertically integrating into cable provider/Dodgers pay channel; why would other cable providers want to support that product ?

    This is interesting and messy.

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  19. Mike G says:

    Just make all the games available via Done. Problem solved. That’s how I watch already anyways.

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    • james says:

      It would increase MLB.TV costs exponentially. Teams were willing to give up out of market games for very little. They really did not heve enough of a fan base to sell games elsewhere. Maybe the Sox or Yankees have some ability (and the Braves in fact do) to sell out of market or national games. the Braves are more a verticle intration issue, as Turner at one point owned TBS and the Braves (i am not even sure he owns either at this point). was basically a way for the leagues to bundle enough stuff they could not find a market for on their own, and figured out if they put it all together, they have something people will use and pay for. It is kind of like the last sliver of soap, it really is not enough to do anything, but if you push a few of them together, it becomes useable again, even if only for the people who really want soap (casual fans do not buy… only us nuts)

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      • Unless you add commercials. Then I don’t see why it would go up all that much. Or allow people to choose different packages with different prices. For example, maybe you have 4 options. You can choose all of one teams’ games, a divisions (so, you get all AL East games), a league’s games (all NL), or everything. Each one with a different price tag. Maybe you put an uplift on it if someone in San Diego wants to watch Yankee games only to help keep people watching the team in their own market.

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  20. Burpee says:

    Not covered in all this outrage on the Nationals perspective,, and most national coverage of the issue, is the Orioles “gave” the Nationals the 3 of the richest Counties in the country as part of their “territory”. The Orioles could have kept the Nationals out of DC entirely…BUT, the Orioles told MLB, “IF” there is a team in DC, AND they take the 3 of the 10 richest/wealthy counties in the NATION, …. the Orioles must be compensated for loosing MAJOR/MASSIVE revenue’s! And thus, MASN balances the revenues lost by giving the Orioles what they were going to loose.
    — That’s fair. Baltimore is the 3rd smallest market in baseball, but add the DC area to Baltimore, it’s the 6th largest. The Orioles had the 6th largest market. HAD. But conceded that to baseball, for disproportionate MASN revenues.
    — The Nationals seem to think they are in DC inspite, and not because of the MASN deal. If they don’t like the deal, they can move back to Canada.
    — And for those Nat’s fans out there who jumped ship from the Orioles because of Angelos, you’d better be a Ravens fan…because the hypocrisy of hating Angelos and being a Snyder/Redskin supporter, is truly something only found in DC.

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    • Patrick says:

      I dispute the premise, here.

      MLB loves to carve up the world, or at least the country, and give territories with millions of people to one billionaire, or in some cases, make these people slaves to multiple billionaires.

      The time for Congress to repeal MLB’s anti trust exemption has long since passed. The Orioles should have no say whatsoever if a team wants to move into Washington DC. They didn’t “give” the Nationals anything that they weren’t going to have to resign themselves to in any case.

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      • Burpee says:

        If it wasn’t for MLB and Angelos coming to agreement to this current contract before the Nationals moved from Montreal, there wouldn’t be a team in D.C. The Orioles lost a huge chunk of their market which is why they were initially granted 90% of MASN’s profit, which I think will eventually end up being capped 67% Orioles and 33% Nationals according to the contract, including the rights fees being increased by $1 million each year. There’s a disparity between the Baltimore market and D.C. market, that was why the two sides came to this agreement. Yes, the Nationals want the pie cut in half, but by cutting it in half lose a great amount. How is that even?

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  21. Mark says:

    Re: Above comment regarding WGN getting out of the sports broadcast business–they just re-upped with the Blackhawks for 3 more years in May, through 2019. It’s WGN America that’s dropping sports.

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  22. Rob McMillin says:

    Illuminating and well-written. I did not know, in particular, about Comcast SportsNet Houston going into Chapter 11. Dodger fans have a great deal to worry about. The reality here is that the Dodgers’ woes are, in fact, Frank McCourt reaching beyond his ownership grave to wreck the team — a parting gift that keeps on giving, and the Guggenheim Group was dumb enough to let him do it. That was no doubt abetted by Selig and the other owners, who wanted to believe their money trees — in Silicon Valley parlance, their “exit strategy” — would climb ever higher. People who claimed previously that bankruptcy would not happen as a consequence of these outrageous deals need to explain how one apparently already has. I anticipate a chain reaction as the Dodgers fail to realize the TV revenue they anticipated, and this will be shoveled back upon the players. Guaranteed contracts or no, they are just another unsecured creditor. That will make neither the league nor the union happy, but it’s not clear to me what choices any of them really have. In retrospect, perhaps the Yankees were just smart for pulling out of YES network when they did.

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    • Jim Ray Hart says:

      DirecTV is telling Time Warner: We will sell a season Dodgers baseball for “X” amount ( $150 ? $195 ? ) and we’ll give you a certain percentage. Time Warner was counting on DirecTV buying the Dodgers channel and raising everyone’s bill $7 a month, even customers who never watch sports. Here in the SF Bay Area, DTV is taking the same hard line stance with the Pac12 Network.

      If this was happening to my Giants Comcast Sports Network, I would dump DTV.

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  23. mike wants wins says:

    Great article. learned a lot, and well written. Thanks,

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  24. The biggest dark side is that my generation (millennials) don’t have cable. This trend will just keep going on and on. We watch streaming TV. Teams and MLB should focus on getting a per team subscription (and allow ads on it, I don’t really care what’s show between innings).

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  25. Cable Finished says:

    There should be a lot more on how these contracts are a bubble … a whole lot more so comparing the other famed bubbles a la housing.

    Cable considers sports necessary because it is a LIVE program people will pay to see, while most of the programming is better through streaming.

    MLB’s legal labyrinth deserves complete credit, so I would not expect it to continue as people discover how to proxy and eventually the legal shenanigans get renegotiated.

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  26. kelly7552 says:

    Why doesn’t offer a super premium package that would allow those of us who want to see in market games to just pay for them? Even if it’s a ridiculous price, wouldn’t it be better than prirating?

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  27. Mr Punch says:

    Cable companies are going to find they need local sports (other than the NFL) to retain their subscribers. It’s live programming not available over the air – and that’s practically unique.

    As for Baltimore-Washington, that has not historically been a single market – see Frank Deford’s “Over Time” on this.

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  28. jack says:

    I don’t have cable and plan to never get it. Fortunately, $20 gets you all 2,430 MLB games on audio (home and away, no blackouts) + the postseason. Probably as good a value as you will find on anything….

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