TV rights wave brings A’s along for the ride

When the A’s made the move to basic cable full-time, it was considered to be a solid, though not groundbreaking, improvement for the A’s in terms of revenue. More games would be broadcast (still not all games), and peripheral coverage would would improve via CSN California’s revamped local programming. While the second part would prove true, it wasn’t clear what financial benefits the A’s were getting. As late as last fall the rights fee being paid by Comcast to the A’s was kept hush-hush. I had heard the rights fee started at $15 million with escalators for improved ratings. Whatever the figure truly was, it wasn’t supposed to be terribly competitive within the new TV rights bubble, let alone the mega-deals signed by the LA teams and Texas.

Well, turns out that Lew Wolff and Ken Pries worked out a pretty good deal after all. In Wendy Thurm’s latest post on Fangraphs there’s a table that shows updated TV rights deals (courtesy of Sports Business Journal). The A’s are in pretty decent shape with a deal that works out to $43-48 million per year, which is a lot more than previously speculated or earned in the previous contract. $43+ million still pales in comparison to the Rangers’ or Angels’ $150 million, but those teams were playing a different game from the A’s anyway. The boost is enough to help the team competitively, not enough for management to start making a bunch of stupid personnel decisions. The annual rights fee puts the A’s at 11th or 12th depending on how you’re counting, squarely within MLB’s CBA-defined Top 15 markets.

Of course, the downside is that what looks good now could look puny a decade from now, when the A’s can exercise their first option to renegotiate or extend the CSNCA deal. Several teams will have the opportunity to renegotiate their deals or start their own RSNs before the end of the decade. Chances are good that they’ll do just that. Look for the A’s to follow suit a years later.

How the A's TV deal stacks up against division and crossbar rivals

How the A’s TV deal stacks up against division and crossbay rivals

Despite the added revenue, let’s be clear about something: the A’s are still last in the AL West in terms of TV revenue (and probably radio as well). I suppose that no A’s fan will care as long as the team keeps leading the division in the standings.


Note: The SBJ article dates back to Opening Day. Either I missed it completely or I skipped over the updated figure. Apologies.

15 thoughts on “TV rights wave brings A’s along for the ride

  1. I assume a contract like this has a change of venue/city clause that alters the fundamentals of the contract. If the A’s moved to, for instance, Portland, I assume CSN California would not have to pay the same money through 2023. But I assume that ‘move’ clause won’t apply to moving only 30 miles away.
    Assuming the A’s play their 2018 opening day at Cisco Field in SJ and assuming A’s fan support markedly grows because of the move/new venue, it sure seems like CSN California will have struck huge gold. They’ll be way under playing for the viewership base the A’s will now deliver. Unfortunately this means the A’s will be missing out on $$$ that would otherwise be used for more robust player signings (something, I think, we all are hoping for if they move to SJ).

  2. @TW yeah the A’s will do better in SJ, but your right, with this TV contract they probabley will not get more money out of the deal by moving to SJ, and when you think about the debt of a new park, along with the fact that they will not get fat walefare cheeks from MLB any longer. We will not see the SJ A’s make major player deals, like the top 7 payroll teams, we will do better in turms of holding on to our own players a little longer, I dont expect us to go all NY or anything, but after what we have been through a stable team in a new ballpark with an avrage payroll is a dream come true.

  3. RM,
    Any chance the A’s acquire an equity stake in CSNCA? Much like the Giants with CSNBA? I’ve always thought as compensation for the Giants “loosing” SCCO to the A’s, a RSN owned jointy by both the teams would be created, with the Giants earning a little scratch from the A’s until AT&T Park is paid off. Much like the O’s/ Nats and Cubs/Chisox. Just a thought…

  4. BTW, the Astros appear financially healthy and are making bank via TV; why do they suck so badly? Good for us, of course.

  5. @Tony D – They’re rebuilding. They just underwent an ownership change, hired a bright young GM, and have a ton of top draft picks. As the Rangers start to get old and fade, the Astros will be ready to rise.

  6. Yeah I think the Astros will be dangerous in a few years if those young guys stay healthy

  7. It is a bit puzzling that the Giants get less per year than the A’s do from TV. Then again having an equity stake evens it all out nicely.

    The A’s, when they move to San Jose will be in prime position to cash in big in 2023, or about 5 years after they move.

    Do not think for one second the A’s will not be big market in San Jose. Their payroll will be top 10 and ahead of the Giants, hence why they refuse to negotiate away Santa Clara County.

    The A’s will tap into massive revenue streams that will allow them “spend big to win big” in this system of only big market teams winning it all under Bud Selig.

    The A’s being small market in the Bay Area makes zero sense when its the richest market in the US and they get revenue sharing checks?

    • @Sid – The Giants deal was struck way back in the Fox Sports Net days. Back then $30 million was a pretty impressive figure, plus they had the equity share. The A’s deal with CSN was done only a few years ago.

  8. @Sid.. top 10, well perhaps 10, if everything falls right, dont get me rong 10 would be light years ahead of where we are , but you have got NY(2) LA(2) redsox, cubs, philly, rangers, jays, and the giants, top 10? I hope we can get to 10 if the A’s move to SJ, and there are other teams that have very good one team markets seattle, heck the rocks and dbacks have hole stats and sorounding stats top 10 lets hope

  9. Here’s an idea! Combine CSNBA AND CSNCA, with the A’s having an equity stake in the “new” RSN. They’re “sister stations” anyway, with much of the same content and overlap; shouldn’t be to difficult. Here’s to CSN NORCAL!

  10. One thing to remember as far as the Astros TV money is that Crane just spent a lot of money to get CSN Houston off the ground, and from a baseball perspective, it couldn’t have come at a worse time. Not only does the channel not significant carriage (Comcast is the only major provider that offers it) but FS Southwest is already in most homes and is showing Rangers games. Before, this being shared territory, we got a few Astros games in North Texas, and vice versa, but only when the Rangers were off, or the few games (Friday nights) that are on local TV here. Now, all 130 or so Rangers games on Fox Southwest are available on practically every cable and satellite system in Houston, unlike the Astros. Long-term, it may be a gold mine, but for now they’ve pretty much given Houston to the Rangers as a television market.

  11. I see these TV revenue figures factored with the annual MLB welfare checks and now know why LW/JF are in no hurry to do anything unless it absolutely favors them….and people wonder why the won’t sell…..

  12. @anon,
    I hear yah; good point. That said, while they may be in no hurry I’m sure they’d take a new ballpark in a heartbeat over the concrete, sewage edifice..

  13. Lew and company are not stupid. They get paid, no matter what. 1. If they dont get SJ, they sit at the Coli. cash the fat ckeeks they receive from MLB (same people that will not let them move to SJ) and ride the wave of incress team value, for a baseball team they put vary little money into, and paying almost no rent, that boys and girls is a business man. 2. Ifwhen they get SJ, they may not have to pay a dime, even if they do it will be well worth it, because their team value will incress twice what they pay the Giants, and they will have a chance to box the Giants in, because they will have SJ (South Bay), Oakland (East Bay), and Sacramento triple A team (Northern Cal).3. If MLB would like to move the team out of California, they simply sit wait 10 years and cash in big time. 4. If MLB would like them to build in Oakland (cover the Giants a__), between what MLB and OaklandAameda Co. will have to give them, to do that trust they will be fine. Yeah they would love SJ but Lew is not going crazy over it, and its not simply because he is being a good soldier.

  14. anybody know what the tv ratings are for the a’s? radio and attendance #s are slightly up.

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