Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred recently sat down for an interview with the JohnWallStreet blog. He was asked his opinions on Disney’s sale of the 22 regional sports networks it acquired from Fox. His answer is raising a few eyebrows in the sports media world.
JWS: The Yankees are going to re-acquire control of the YES Network. The Cubs have discussed doing the same in 2020. Does MLB want its teams to control their broadcast rights? Does the league care who ends up buying the other 21 Fox RSNs?
Manfred: We’re very interested in the RSN sale process and have preferences in terms of who the owners are going to be. Candidly, we’re looking at the RSNs ourselves.
JWS: MLB renewed its media rights partnership with Fox Sports (includes World Series), with a +39% increase in value 3 years early. As teams’ current deals expire, would you expect local broadcast rights to grow at a similar rate?
Manfred: Yeah, I think that content is going to continue to increase in value as we move forward. It may be different bidders, different companies that are involved, but I think the most important point is that content has durable value.
The obvious questions are 1) “Who does MLB prefer own the RSNs?” and 2) “What would it take for MLB to make a bid of their own?”.
Does Manfred have concerns over streaming rights and how an Amazon take over of those regional sports networks could effect the future of MLB.TV? Does the Major League Baseball office fear what an association with the heavily scrutinized Sinclair Media Group would do for its brand image? There is no real way to know those answers without Manfred saying who he prefers win the bidding and why, so let’s instead talk about the idea of Major League Baseball bidding for those networks.
There are plenty of cost factors to consider. Not only would a new bidder likely drive up the price, but there would be a whole new set of production costs the league and its teams would be responsible for. There is also the question of what exactly MLB wants to buy. If the Yankees want to reacquire the controlling interest in the YES Network, would that be part of this deal or would YES exist outside of this deal?
There are advantages too, particularly in the streaming world. Awful Announcing‘s Andrew Bucholtz points out that “it would make it a lot easier to do cross-RSN initiatives, such as in-market streaming, and would also give the league a whole lot of control over over-the-top options; if MLB controls both the local rights and the national rights, that could potentially allow for MLB.tv subscription levels that ignore in-market blackouts.”
Another question worth asking is how would acquiring 22 regional networks effect the MLB Network. Surely the league wouldn’t want to create a scenario where they own two networks in a market that are essentially simulcasts of each other.
These questions may be a lot of consternation over nothing. Although the first round of bidding is over, it is still not entirely impossible that Fox or Comcast don’t find a way into the bidding in the second round. Surely groups that MLB already has working relationships with would ease Manfred’s mind and reduce the league’s desire to make a bid. This could also be posturing to make sure whoever wins the bidding is prepared to treat the league’s teams the way they feel they deserve to be treated.
David Kaplan Leaving NBC Sports Chicago
“I was presented an opportunity that will allow me to spend a lot more time my wife, Mindy, our four sons, and their expanding families. This is far from a retirement.”
David Kaplan has announced he is departing NBC Sports Chicago. In a video posted to his YouTube channel, Kaplan said a new path opened that he couldn’t turn down.
“I was presented an opportunity that will allow me to spend a lot more time my wife, Mindy, our four sons, and their expanding families. This is far from a retirement. You’ll still be able to catch me weekday mornings with Jonathan Hood on the Kap and JHood morning show on ESPN 1000. It will also allow me to provide you with more engaging and outstanding content right here on YouTube.”
Kaplan, who will turn 62 this weekend, accepted a buyout offered by NBCUniversal. He has hosted several different shows for the network during his tenure.
“He’s made enormous contributions to our network, and his passion, opinions and love of Chicago’s teams have made him a beloved and respected figure, not just with fans but also his colleagues,” NBC Sports Chicago Vice President of Content John Schippman told The Chicago Sun-Times. “We wish him the best and look forward to seeing what’s next.”
December 30th will be his final day at NBC Sports Chicago. He called his time with the network “an amazing run”.
NASCAR Chasing Nearly $1 Billion Annual Rights Fee In Next TV Deal
“We work really closely together, both from a scheduling perspective, but also just in terms of how they monetize the sport.”
The current media rights deal for NASCAR with FOX Sports and NBC Sports doesn’t end until after the 2024 season, but the organization is currently plotting what it wants its next deal to look like, according to a report from Front Office Sports.
Currently, NASCAR makes $820 million per year from the two networks. In its new rights deal, it is expected to seek a deal in the neighborhood of $900-950 million range.
NASCAR plans to begin negotiating with its current media partners in the early months of 2023, but is currently happy with FOX and NBC.
“We work really closely together, both from a scheduling perspective, but also just in terms of how they monetize the sport. Whether that’s pushing more brands and advertisers to spend on Fox and NBC,” NASCAR Senior Vice President of Media and Productions Brian Herbst told FOS. “Fox had their third consecutive year of ad revenue increases in 2022. NBC had their second consecutive year of ad revenue increases in 2022. So it’s working for them — both from a viewership and an ad revenue perspective.”
In February of this year, NASCAR President Steve Phelps told the Marchand and Ourand Sports Media Podcast that broadcast television “has to be a part” of the organization’s next television rights deal.
As its current media partners, FOX and NBC have exclusive negotiating windows with NASCAR.
NFL Sunday Ticket Negotiations With Apple ‘Have Gotten Silly’
“Apple’s like, ‘OK, we can’t sell internationally. OK, that was important to us. And we can’t sell it exclusively against Fox and CBS. Well, OK. Well, that changes its value.’”
A report from The Athletic details why the NFL has not announced a new partner for the NFL Sunday Ticket package. David Kaplan claims there have been continued hiccups in the negotiations, mentioning the bargaining has gotten sideways between the league and Apple.
“This negotiation has gotten silly. … Clearly, there’s a problem. I think it’s really clear Apple is learning things they didn’t know,” the anonymous NFL source told Kaplan. “What the conversation is, is Apple’s like, ‘OK, we can’t sell internationally. OK, that was important to us. And we can’t sell it exclusively against Fox and CBS. Well, OK. Well, that changes its value.’”
The report also details Amazon Prime and YouTube remain in the mix as potential suitors for the service, should talks with Apple and the league fall apart.
The NFL is looking for as much as $3.5 billion annually for rights to the service.