Sports TV News
Cardinals, FSM Sign Lucrative Deal
Capitalizing on their history of success and baseball’s skyrocketing value as real-time TV, the Cardinals have reached a deal with Fox Sports Midwest that will guarantee the team more than $1 billion and assert for years to come their televised presence in a broad, devoted region.
The team and its exclusive local broadcast partner are expected to announce a new, 15-year agreement Thursday morning, officials on both sides confirmed. The new deal will begin with the 2018 season, continue to feature as many as 150 televised regular-season games, and also provides the Cardinals with a minority stake in the network.
“This does give us a great deal of stability over the next 15 years and does so in a market that has been shifting,” Cardinals chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. said. “It has a nice increase in rights fees as well as the equity component and as a whole it will allow us to remain as competitive as we have been with our payroll, with our spending in the international markets, with our activity in amateur markets and other ways we have invested in development. We have certainty going forward.”
The agreement is new and not an extension of the current deal, which expires after the 2017 season. The value of the 2018-2032 rights package allows the Cardinals to catch up with a trend that has radically shaped baseball in recent years.
The total for the rights fee alone could surpass $1 billion, and that does not include the signing bonus or additional revenue the Cardinals will get from the equity stake.
Jack Donovan, general manager and senior vice president of Fox Sports Midwest, declined to discuss the specifics of the equity arrangement. He said the sides saw benefits to working on a deal now — two years before the Cardinals had to decide on their 2018 option. Discussions intensified over the past year, and the agreement was recently approved by Major League Baseball.
“It was in the best interests to get out in front of it before the current deal expired,” Donovan said. “This provides stability too for the network for years to come.”
The rights-fee gusher in baseball, both with local and national broadcast rights, has allowed teams in midsized markets to become as aggressive as larger-market teams when it comes to spending on players, whether it’s keeping talent or pursuing free agents.
The Cardinals telecasts on Fox Sports Midwest annually gather some of the highest ratings in baseball, and the games are the highest-rated prime time program in St. Louis during the season. They had the highest ratings of any team in 2014, and that was the 15th consecutive year that the Cardinals ranked in Major League Baseball’s top three for local TV ratings. They are No. 2 this year. Those ratings are robust in the St. Louis area, but Fox Sports Midwest also provides Cardinals games to a region that includes part or all of 10 states. Ratings, and the advertising dollars they can command, are only part of the equation when it comes to rising rights fees. Market size is a huge indicator. Teams such as Houston, the Rangers, the Dodgers, and, of course, the Yankees can attract profoundly higher rights fees simply because they play in areas with bigger populations.
A cable network generates income from subscriber fees, and the larger the population the more subscribers. Whether a household watches ESPN or not, if it has a cable bill, it’s paying for ESPN. The Cardinals are the 21st largest market according to Nielsen, behind the Diamondbacks (11th) and Indians (19th) but ahead of the Pirates (22nd) and Padres (28th).
What has made sports programming so valuable to networks is that it’s still appointment viewing. Unlike “Game of Thrones” or “Mad Men,” which can be viewed on demand, or streaming entertainment such as Netflix’s “House of Cards,” sports have remained DVR-proof.
“Sports on television is very powerful (because) people watch it live. They don’t time-shift sports,” Donovan said. “You watch movies and TV shows when you want now. Sports are the only thing where you don’t watch reruns, you don’t watch them two days later. Sports also has shorter commercial breaks. We have to be back live when the ump puts the ball in play. That makes commercials more valuable when they’re in that small pod. Sports is also wholesome content.
“Sports are emerging as the pre-eminent content on TV these days.”
At the end of the new deal, in late 2032, the Cardinals and Fox Sports Midwest will have had a relationship spanning 39 years.
Baseball’s big TV contracts
|Team/mkt size||Date of deal||Network||Length||Value|
|Texas Rangers, #5||Aug 2010||Fox Sports SW||20 years||$3 billion|
|LA Angels, #2||Dec 2011||Fox Sports West||20 years||$3 billion|
|SD Padres, #28||April 2012||Fox Sports SD||20 years||$1.2 billion|
|LA Dodgers, #2||Jan 2013||Time Warner Cable||25 years||$8.35 billion|
|CLE Indians, #19||Dec 2012||Fox Sports||10 years||$400 million|
|Ariz. Dbacks, #11||Feb 2015||Fox Sports Arizona||20 years||$1.5 billion|
|PHI Phillies, #4||Jan 2014||Comcast SportsNet||25 years||$2.5 billion|
|STL Cardinals, #21||July 2015||Fox Sports MW||15 years||$1+ billion|
To read the full article visit STLToday.com where it was originally published
Jason Barrett is the owner and operator of Barrett Sports Media. Prior to launching BSM he served as a sports radio programmer, launching brands such as 95.7 The Game in San Francisco and 101 ESPN in St. Louis. He has also produced national shows for ESPN Radio including GameNight and the Dan Patrick Show. You can find him on Twitter @SportsRadioPD or reach him by email at JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com.
Sports TV News
JJ Redick: ESPN Sells The NBA As ‘Only 5 or 6 Teams Matter’
“To me, this could be the best thing possible for the NBA and its fans because we have not done a good job of selling the rest of the NBA.”
Following the Los Angeles Lakers’ elimination from the NBA Playoffs, the matchup between the Association’s two most accomplished clubs – the Lakers and Boston Celtics – is no longer a possibility. On Tuesday morning’s edition of First Take on ESPN, JJ Redick suggested how it would be a seminal occurrence for the NBA to have teams from smaller media markets square off for the championship, familiarizing basketball and sports fans at large with new teams and players.
“We somehow have sold the NBA as a league where only five or six teams matter and a league where only five or six players matter,” Redick said on the program. “To me, this could be a watershed moment for the NBA. To me, this could be the best thing possible for the NBA and its fans because we have not done a good job of selling the rest of the NBA.”
Redick pointed out how after Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals, the talking points were focused on the Lakers and what the team needed to do to have a legitimate chance to win the series. He reminded people that Nuggets center and two-time NBA MVP Nikola Jokić had his third consecutive triple-double, posting an unparalleled statline of 34 points, 21 rebounds and 14 assists.
“We don’t do a good job of selling what the NBA is, which is 30 teams, 450 players [and] multiple superstars,” Redick said. “The fact that people are now being like, ‘Oh, I didn’t realize Nikola Jokić was good’…. Well, let’s put him on TV more!”
Stephen A. Smith told Redick that the NBA has not established its games akin to “events” as much as the National Football League. Smith expressed how he has seen pastors change the time of their Sunday sermons in order to ensure they were home to watch professional football games. While football is very much a team sport, Smith offered Redick his perspective that basketball is “built on superstars.”
“The NBA became what it is because it gravitated to individuality,” Smith said. “Even though the Boston Celtics were a great team and the Lakers ultimately were a great team, they sold Magic and Bird. Michael Jordan comes along – they sold Michael Jordan, and obviously, all the names that we don’t need to get into followed. They sold the individual.”
Smith addressed Redick and accentuated the incredible feats of Jokić, but part of what has made him one of sports media’s most prominent personalities is by having a shrewd perception of his audience. ESPN and other major sports networks are fully aware that Los Angeles supersedes Denver in terms of media consumers, and that the Lakers are recognized as an international brand.
“I’m not where I am today if it were not for the NBA,” Smith said. “Basketball has done wonders for my life, and I’m incredibly grateful and thankful, and the NBA will always be promoted on this show. Please understand in the same breath, we also have to pay attention to what the audience wants to hear too.”
Sports TV News
Diamond Sports Group In Danger of Losing Padres TV Rights
“The company has a grace period to deliver the payment that runs through May 30.”
Diamond Sports Group filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in March after failing to make a scheduled debt payment to its creditors. At the time, the company had more than $8 billion in debt and was commencing a process of restructuring. Yet the company stated its Ballys-branded regional sports networks would continue to operate as usual. Major League Baseball decided to take action though and establish a plan to broadcast games locally if the company missed a rights payment.
Now, it is looking that is exactly what will happen. Diamond missed a payment to the San Diego Padres last week, meaning the team’s media rights could soon be the property of Major League Baseball. The company has a grace period to deliver the payment that runs through May 30. If it were to miss the payment, it would mark the first time it will relinquish a contract in this way.
“Despite Diamond’s economic situation, there is every expectation that they will continue televising all games they are committed to during the bankruptcy process,” Major League Baseball said in a statement. “Major League Baseball is ready to produce and distribute games to fans in their local markets in the event that Diamond or any other regional sports network is unable to do so as required by their agreement with our club.”
The company’s current contract with the San Diego Padres has nine years and approximately $540 million remaining with an escalator clause built into the deal. This means that the final year of the deal would cost Diamond Sports Group more than $70 million in rights fees, and while the team is in the top five for television deliveries, the entity perhaps may not view it as sustainable. The momentum headed in this direction was first reported by John Ourand of Sports Business Journal.
The company has also pushed Major League Baseball teams to agree to deals to stream the games in order to recoup lost cable revenue. By being granted the rights to stream games directly to consumers, Diamond Sports Group has vowed to pay the rights fees it owes to nine MLB teams. The company currently has the streaming rights for just five of the 14 major league clubs on its regional sports networks.
Some industry experts believe Diamond Sports Group is utilizing this stalemate to be able to exit media rights deals that are losing the company money. For example, the Diamondbacks’ media rights contract garners an annual payment of about $68 million while amassing the second-lowest local television ratings of any Major League Baseball team.
On May 31, a bankruptcy judge will establish how much money Diamond Sports Group owes its clubs for media rights fees while in Chapter 11 bankruptcy and whether it can continue broadcasting games at this time. The Arizona Diamondbacks, Cleveland Guardians and Minnesota Twins filed emergency motions urging the judge to coerce Diamond Sports Group to make their payments. If the company is unable to distribute payments, the emergency motion calls for teams to issue default notices to the regional sports networks, which could permit the termination of media rights contracts.
Sports TV News
Devin McCourty Joining Football Night in America on NBC
“I’m very grateful for this opportunity from NBC Sports to learn from great individuals, chase new goals and provide viewers with my thoughts on the biggest games every week.”
NBC Sports has enhanced its roster of football analysts with the signing of Devin McCourty. He will join the cast of Football Night in America leading up to each week’s broadcast of Sunday Night Football.
McCourty is a three-time Super Bowl champion and played his entire 13-year career as a defensive back with the New England Patriots, and has the record for most career playoff games started by a defensive player.
“It’s rare when you have the opportunity to add a three-time Super Bowl-winner to your team, and we’re excited to welcome Devin McCourty to Football Night following an incredible NFL career,” said Sam Flood, executive producer and president of production at NBC Sports. “Devin is a leader in every sense of the word, both on and off the field, and his dynamic personality and passion for the game will be a great addition to the show.”
McCourty’s twin brother, Jason, currently works on the cast of NFL Network’s Good Morning Football, and the two co-hosted a podcast together while playing called Double Coverage. Devin was a guest host on Good Morning Football earlier in the season and also contributed to pregame coverage on The NFL Today and NFL Draft content for CBS Sports.
“I’m excited to be a rookie on the best team in America again,” McCourty said in a statement. “I’m very grateful for this opportunity from NBC Sports to learn from great individuals, chase new goals and provide viewers with my thoughts on the biggest games every week.”