Some Major League Baseball TV Deals Really Suck

Major League Baseball is buzzing over the topic of television deals.  The piles of cash are adding up for baseball teams, but if your anything like me, so is your monthly cable bill.

The Pittsburgh Pirates have drawn attention from Dejan Kovacevic regarding their current television deal.  At the time the deal was made, the Bucs were one of the worst teams in Major League Baseball.  It’s rather easy to Monday morning quarterback as mega deals are being put together around Major League Baseball.

There are numerous TV deals that suck and are insanely complicated.  But let’s start with that Atlanta Braves television deal.

The Braves have fourteen years until the contract is up.    Fourteen years.   And the deal really sucks.

It’s been called the worst local television contract in baseball.  The Braves deal was put together as the team was being sold by Time Warner to Liberty Media back in 2007.

Get this.

It’s believed to be worth less than $20 million annually to the Braves.  Some people think it might be closer to just $10 million annually.  Of course we will never lose sleep over anything bad happening to the Tomahawk Choppers.  Especially after Sid Bream missed homeplate on that night so long ago, but damn, the Braves will face challenges with this deal.

One would think it would significantly hinder the Braves ability to compete in Major League Baseball.  Some of the deals being shelled out will lap the Braves deal, perhaps even twice, before Atlanta can get a new deal done.

Of course, Braves CEO Terry McGuirk said he’s got it all under control by pumping up other revenues and keeping a talented minor league system.  That sounds great, but cash is king.

Across the state in Philadelphia, a $35 million check hits the Phillies coffers each season.  The Phillies deal ends next year and will definently spike.

Keeping our focus on the region, the spend happy Washington Nationals own part of the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network.  Being an owner in a sports network can become very costly as the Cleveland Indians have discovered.  Have you priced some of those four hundred pound high definition cameras lately?

If you recall, the Nats were once the Expos and moved from Montreal into Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos’  “turf.”

The dispute between the Nats and the Baltimore Orioles went public in 2011.  At the core is how much money MASN should pay the Nats.  MASN is 87% owned by the O’s and 13% owned by the Nationals.   Angelos says the Nats should get less than what  billionaire Nats owner Ted Lerner, wants.  Lerner’s figure is in the six digits while Angelos is thinking about $38 million annually.

Rumors swirl that Major League Baseball has asked a private investment bank to seek potential new owners for the specific rights to the Nats and O’s.  And interestingly enough the Pittsburgh Pirates are involved in the dispute between the Nats and O’s.

With the Nationals and MASN deadlocked on the size the check should be, Major League Baseball solved it by doing what else?  They made a committee!

The committee hasn’t made a ruling yet, but includes representatives from the Pirates, Tampa Bay Rays and New York Mets.  Buckle up for that decision because it will have a major impact on both the Nats, who just spent $28 million on a closer for two seasons, and the O’s who signed their GM and skipper Buck Showalter to extensions.

TV deals will shape baseball moving forward.

But we need to take a quick look back and recognize one slight difference between Atlanta and Pittsburgh which is the source of the funding for their ballparks.  Tax dollars were the major source for the creation of PNC Park, or as some suggested Shoved Down The Taxpayers Throats Park.   The Bucs had to come up with just $44 million.  PNC Bank stroked checks for $30 million of those dollars.  Taxpayers footed a massive share.

In Atlanta, the process was much easier.  The 1996 Olympic sponsors and private entities signed the checks for the Tomahawk Choppers.

If only Pittsburgh could have landed an Olympics bid maybe this TV deal wouldn’t be considered such a hinderence.  A 20-year futility streak must be broken in 2013 and it appears the efforts of the Bucs will come from an underfunded roster once again.

It’s a shame.  But you can bet we will be watching every damn night.  Let’s Go Bucs!



Tags: Pittsburgh Pirates

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