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Thursday, February 27, 2020

MLB’s Winning and Losing Efforts to Conquer TV, Part I: The Strike

When massive television dollars from broadcast giants ABC, CBS, and NBC stopped flowing directly into baseball owners’ pockets 25 years ago, the downturn in revenue helped to cause a strike that the sport took years to recover from. In the earlier part of this decade, a similar specter loomed in the form of a cable bubble, the bursting of which threatened to take away the millions that teams receive to broadcast local games on Regional Sports Networks (RSNs) like the Yankees’ YES Network or the Cardinals’ Fox Sports Midwest. Due to a diversification of revenue, an emphasis on developing streaming technology with a impact felt beyond the sport, and an increasing number of bidders, both traditional and non-traditional, that want to broadcast baseball games, Major League Baseball has been able to avoid a bubble similar to the one that severely damaged the sport 25 years ago. But, as exemplified by the recent Sinclair acquisitions of RSNs and the Blue Jays’ decision to remove Canadian access to their games on MLB.TV, a short-sighted approach could undo their victory in the long-term.

First, how we got here.

In 1988, CBS won the right to broadcast Major League Baseball’s marquee events, including the All-Star Game and World Series, beginning in the 1990 season. The network would spend $1.08 billion over the following four years for those games, reportedly beating the offers of rival networks ABC and NBC by as much as $400 million. While the deal was massive in its size, its importance was outweighed by a smaller but more significant deal signed the same year.

One concern with CBS’ new deal was the dramatic decrease in the number of regular season games broadcast nationally, moving from more than 30 games per season down to just 12 beginning in 1990. Commissioner Peter Ueberoth laughed off those concerns, noting teams’ ability to sell local broadcast rights. Around the same time as the CBS deal, the New York Yankees announced one such deal

A consideration of national TV contracts over the last few decades, or, why we’re stuck with Joe Buck to the end of time…..

 

QLE Posted: February 27, 2020 at 01:41 AM | 4 comment(s)
  Beats: broadcasting, cbs sports, strike, the baseball network

 

 

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