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Lots of people want to buy in to MLBAM, but the owners aren’t selling

Jan 21, 2011, 3:57 PM EDT


Major League Baseball Advanced Media — the baseball subsidiary behind and a lot of stuff about which you have no idea — is a gold mine.  It, more than anything, has been responsible for the sharp increase in baseball revenues in recent years. And as an added bonus, the company just gets stuff right.  I can watch a Mariners-A’s game on a Tuesday night in Ohio if I want to, and I can do so relatively cheaply. And it works. As does most of the stuff they do. Viva MLBAM.

But when you get a money-making enterprise that folks like, other folks will want to invest in it. And as Business Insider reported the other day, lots of private equity groups want to invest in MLBAM.  But baseball is rejecting these overtures, preferring to forgo the instant liquidity in favor of keeping it the league and the owners’ very own private thing.  BI has some possible explanations for this:

A source close to the talks tells us the company gets “call a day” from private equity firms, but that the company isn’t looking to sell a stake for a few reasons:

  • It’s already loaded with cash.
  • Owners are already getting a huge dividend.
  • Selling a billion dollar stake in MLBAM any time soon would make it very hard for owners to argue that they’re broke in upcoming labor negotiations with players.
  • Selling a stake could further complicate the ownership stake and perhaps even force a dreaded shotgun IPO.

Those are all very plausible reasons. I’ll add another one:  The books of major league baseball owners are a thicket of self-dealing and chaos, and there’s no way in hell they want to open them up to anyone they don’t have to lest people see just how ugly they really are.  If you doubt this, just recall the fun stuff we saw when Frank McCourt and Tom Hicks were forced to open their books in litigation. Or when Deadspin reported on a bunch of leaked financials from the Pirates, Marlins and other teams.

It’s less the case than it used to be, but in a lot of ways baseball teams are multi-million dollar businesses being run like a small town auto dealership.  They make money to beat the band, but they’re not about to share that with the Wall Street crowd.

  1. BC - Jan 21, 2011 at 4:58 PM

    Not happening. Epic Fail. Book it, Danno.

  2. Chris Fiorentino's Rash - Jan 21, 2011 at 5:14 PM

    I wish they would put some of that money back into the service. While it somewhat gets better every year, its still subject to jitters, freezes, and all together outages.
    Each year I sign up for it, use it for a month and end up canceling because they cannot get it together. support treats the end user like morons and will write off any issue with service as a end user issue.

    The last time i used it last year was on a 25mb cable connection, with a quad core pc with 8gb ram, and it was a fresh OS load. More than enough to meet minimum specifications, yet support still blamed the computer.

    I have been “forced” each year to turn to P2P feeds which are not exactly legal…

    Luckily I have since moved into my teams television market and I get to catch every game on tv each night so I don’t have to feel like a thief or digital thug, which I was in MLBAM’s eyes.

    • obo1892 - Jan 21, 2011 at 6:44 PM

      It probably has more to do with your software than hardware or internet connection. I’m going to guess your machine was not running Winblows. I noticed mlbtv stunk on my linux machine and on my mac but ran much smoother on my gimped box WinXP.

      • obo1892 - Jan 21, 2011 at 6:49 PM

        P.S. MLB .tv is aboslutely leading the way in live internet programming. This option is non existent for other sports. Once other sports catch on to what is doing cable companies are in trouble. Between, Netflix, and Hulu, there is not much TV I desire that I can’t get through the internet. Bye, bye cable package. If were public I’d spend my lunch money on that stock instead of food.

      • Chris Fiorentino's Rash - Jan 21, 2011 at 10:17 PM

        Windows 7 x64….
        I’ve been a network engineer for the last 15 years. I know my way around these things.
        I’ve been involved in the design and implementation of streaming solutions multiple times. Obviously nothing of the capacity that MLB has to deal with, but with their resources ($) they have had the opportunity to get it right.
        What’s it been, 4 or 5 seasons for now?

        That said, I had no problems turning to P2P when I did. While the quality was mostly topped out around 300-500k streams, the love of the game and my team had me willing to break some “laws” to watch.

        Luckily I moved into my team’s tv market last summer.

      • Reflex - Jan 21, 2011 at 11:37 PM

        The problem with is that they changed a few seasons ago from Silverlight to Flash for their streaming. The result is that its now unreliable and a major hog like most streaming flash video. It went from consuming maybe 20% of my CPU to a full 60-80%, higher if I went full screen. Very frustrating.

        They were never very clear about why they changed. Something about Silverlight not providing them something they wanted. Irritating as hell, considering how nice Netflix operates and its full Silverlight(even on other platforms).

  3. PanchoHerreraFanClub - Jan 21, 2011 at 5:25 PM

    Last season I subscribed to MLBAM. I still find it amazing that people running it aren’t doing time for out and out fraud. We were promised a HD feed of all out of market games. Until about a week before Father’s Day, watching any out of market game was problematic. Many times the feeds simply weren’t there. Or the game would start and 5 minutes in start bufferring and never come back. The first five games that Stephen Strasburg pitched broke the system so you couldn’t watch any game.

    To be fair, after Father’s Day things got better. By end of the season you could watch most games with a picture quality was almost as good as analog TV.

    I have not renewed for this year, but I probably will because it is the only game in town.

  4. smokehouse56 - Jan 21, 2011 at 5:30 PM

    Your lucky. I live 60 miles west of Philly and my zip is considered Phillies “territory.” I have to use a satellite as no cable company comes anywhere near my rural home. Since the Phillies are part of the Comcast “family” they televise 80% of the games. Comcast will not provide their telecast for satellite use. Presto, I see no Phillies games. I subscribe to DirecTV baseball package and it’s super. Phillies are blacked out. They are blacked out when on ESPN and when they are on the baseball channel. They are blacked out when they are on FOX. They are blacked out when they play the Braves and Cubs. Locked out completely. When I complained they said I should move so I could use cable. I told them to go screw themselves. I will not go to a Phillies game if they paid me. I go to Camden Yards and watch the O’s. New York to watch the Yanks and Mets and even several trips to Pittsburgh to watch the Pirates. Will not watch the damn Phillies, even on the road. There are 5 of us of the same problem, among thousands. We share driving expenses and have a hell of a time. Comcast and the Phillies suck big time.

  5. coachbrew - Jan 21, 2011 at 7:52 PM

    On a somewhat related note, does anyone know why MLB is so strict about not allowing their videos on YouTube? Every other major sport does, and it seems to me it can only help them increase interest.

    Not to mention, the built-in video player on is mediocre at best and is often pretty terrible. And I’m just talking about the free nightly highlights and stuff, not the pay service.

  6. crankyfrankie - Jan 21, 2011 at 8:21 PM

    Yes Comcast/NBC/Universal’s stranglehold on the Philadelphia market is furstrating to satellite folks in the city too. No Phillies no Flyers unless you sign up with the evil empire of cable.

  7. crankyfrankie - Jan 21, 2011 at 8:35 PM

    My spelling is both furstrating and frustrating to me when I read my posts.:)

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