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Might a network help out a team on a bad TV rights deal stay competitive?

Jan 17, 2013, 9:50 AM EDT

old TV

Dave O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution spoke with Braves CEO Terry McGuirk about team finances and TV deals, and the conversation puts the disparity between teams with good deals and teams with bad deals into sharp relief: the Braves’ deal is rumored to be between $10-20 million annually. The Dodgers are looking at deals that could pay them $240 million annually. Yikes.

Still, McGuirk claims that the competition having a ten-fold plus advantage in annual TV money is not crippling to the Braves.  He also strongly agreed with this idea, which is one I’ve not really heard anyone mention before with respect to the disparity in TV deals:

McGuirk was asked about this hypothetical situation: If the TV deal someday put the Braves at a disadvantage and undermined their roster construction and their on-field performance, might it be in the TV rights holder’s best interest to reconsider the terms of the remaining part of the deal if it would help the team on the field and presumably in the TV ratings?

I suppose I can envision a situation where a network with baseball rights tells the team that it would chip in a little more to help the team sign some hyper-marketable player that could have an instant impact on the TV ratings. Think free agent Bryce Harper one day or something. But as for a network, in effect, becoming a team’s partner, sitting down and ensuring that the team is remaining competitive, eh, I’ll believe it when I see it.

  1. darthicarus - Jan 17, 2013 at 9:57 AM

    Unless the team owner also owns the network affiliate I don’t see that sort of partnership happening anytime soon. Of course, not seeing something/someone doesn’t always mean it can’t exist…

    • Roger Moore - Jan 17, 2013 at 10:53 AM

      Actually, if the team and the broadcaster are owned by the same entity, they’re better off running the team at a loss and keeping the money in the broadcaster. That way they get to cry poor in public and don’t have to worry about sharing their money with the rest of the league.

  2. Roger Moore - Jan 17, 2013 at 10:17 AM

    I think it depends a lot on why the TV deal isn’t paying so well. If it’s a long-term deal that’s now paying below market rater for the team’s games, I can imagine the broadcaster being willing to renegotiate, especially if it involves an extension. But if the deal doesn’t pay well because the media market is tiny and there just isn’t enough money out there, it’s hard to see the broadcaster doing much.

  3. mirmz - Jan 17, 2013 at 10:23 AM

    There is a precedent for doing this, ask the late-70′s era Phillies.

    The Phillies did this when they signed Pete Rose. Owner went to the local network they just sold the rights to, said if you give me an extra $x for the next couple years we can sign Pete rose because he wants to play here. Network did it, phillies signed him and won a title a year later.

    • fanofevilempire - Jan 17, 2013 at 10:55 AM

      the 70′s was 40 years ago…………………

      and baseball is a business, so why would they renegotiate a good deal.

      cbs would like to renegotiate the Yankees sale too.

      • Roger Moore - Jan 17, 2013 at 11:07 AM

        The idea is that the team would present it to the broadcaster as a smart business decision. They can keep broadcasting the same old bad team and get the same old bad ratings, or they can kick some money the team’s way, have the team get better, and bring in more viewers. It’s a plausible idea, though I’d expect the broadcaster would demand the team have a fairly specific plan for what it was going to do with the money to improve the team. The Phillies are a good example of that because they had a good idea of what they were going to do to put themselves over the top.

    • kyzslew77 - Jan 17, 2013 at 11:19 AM

      Also what the Rangers did during the A-Rod signing. They were probably going to sign him anyways, but they managed to up their take from the network deal in the process.

  4. samsonleague - Jan 17, 2013 at 10:28 AM

    I think if it was true that a network would do this, then we would have seen that in Toronto where the TV network and the team are owned by the same corporation.

    Renegotiating (do you call it that in Toronto’s situation?) would have been easy because of the relationship, but I haven’t seen any evidence that Rogers “TV” cares about the Rogers “team”. They have programming blocks to fill, and the Blue Jays provide it no matter the quality of play.

    I know Rogers has ramped it up this year, but again I don’t see that it was the TV side of things driving that.

  5. fanofevilempire - Jan 17, 2013 at 10:51 AM

    even when the Braves were winning 15 straight division titles nobody outside Atlanta cared.
    the Braves are not Americas team.
    if that is what they get for the rights you can’t blame the other teams with better fan base and
    more popularity.
    I believe Craig is mad, but what can you do, it will cost you a few guys compared to Dodgers.

    • bravojawja - Jan 17, 2013 at 1:32 PM

      Oh, look – it’s yet another Yankees fan dissing the Braves. *Yawn*

    • The Rabbit - Jan 17, 2013 at 5:22 PM

      Oh to be young and ignorant. The only advantage of being old is that you have a perspective that includes history if you were paying attention. To some of us who just love the game, not everyone is a fan due to home location or some self-esteem need to jump on a winner’s bandwagon.

      Don’t know how old you are but I predate cable, dish, and home computers. In South Jersey less than 100 miles away from Yankees stadium, you couldn’t get Yankees’ games on TV. Phillies’ games were on UHF and you got a national Game of the Week broadcast.
      When cable was first available, you had less than 100 stations unlike the 3 million “stations” full of complete crap that you have now. To paraphrase Braves’ players (Chipper Jones, was one of many quoted, I think) they were the TBS programming before and after Andy Griffith. Baseball fans such as myself finally had consistent baseball team programming. It was helped by exceptionally good announcers.

      Due to TBS and the times I’d guess that there were more Braves’ fans outside of the Atlanta area than within…and it started when the team really sucked. I’m old enough to be Craig’s mom and that’s when I started following the team religiously. I know that’s how Craig became a Braves’ fan.

      Now that TBS has stopped its daily national broadcasts and the technology is available that I can watch not only my home team (currently the Cardinals) on cable nightly but every game played on cable or computer, the Braves would not be building the national following it started in the 80′s.

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