Long plagued by one of the lowest-revenue television deals in the game, the Tampa Bay Rays are reportedly close to signing a 15-year extension with Fox that will pay, on average, $82-million per year, starting in 2019, reports John Ourand and Daniel Kaplan of the Sports Business Journal.
According to Ourand and Kaplan:
The deal, which still has hurdles the two sides have to overcome, could be finalized before the start of the baseball season. Those discussion points that still need to be negotiated are not known, but the groups are scheduled to meet next month to try to hammer them out. Allen & Co.’s Steve Greenberg is representing the Rays. Fox Sports Regional Networks President Jeff Krolik is handling negotiations for Fox.
The Rays are entering the final year of their current deal on Fox Sports Sun. The team is due to receive close to $35 million this season, the last one under that deal, sources said.
Fox’s payout is expected to increase to around $50 million in 2019 under the new contract. Over the 15-year life of the deal, which would run through the 2033 season, Fox would pay, on average, around $82 million per year, sources said.
Pay attention to the following caveat:
Complicating matters is the fact that 21st Century Fox is selling the Fox Sports RSN group to Disney as part of a $52.4 billion deal that includes the company’s entertainment assets. The deal has to be approved by regulators before the sale can go through.
Despite poor attendance, the Rays have had great television ratings over the years, regularly ranking in the top half of Major League Baseball in TV ratings. Yet the current contract offers the team somewhere around $25-35 million per season. The new deal, according to Sports Business Daily, will increase to $50 million in 2019, and continue to climb all the way through 2033.
Rays public relations officials had no comment on the TV deal at this time.
It has been widely speculated that a new TV contract could be a significant step toward the team being able to afford a new stadium, while also giving the Rays an opportunity to increase the payroll. However, there is reason to pump the brakes on that point of view.
As Noah Pransky (Shadow of the Stadium, WTSP News) writes, they always knew that money was coming. That is, while the Rays will have a ton of new revenue pouring in, it’s plausible that the “new” money will have been budgeted already.
Its likely not “new” revenue that the team is all of a sudden going to commit to payroll or a new stadium; they are revenues the team was already budgeting.
Pransky also noted (Twitter link) that the TV deal probably will not change much on the stadium front. The Rays did not want the financial numbers to go public for a reason: it would reduce the team’s leverage by making the case for public subsidies even harder.
It’s easy for payroll hawks and stadium proponents — on either side of the bay — to get excited about the news, although it’s probably wiser to be cautiously optimistic. Look at the bright side: at least we get to share many more years with Dewayne and BA.