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.
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.