Could the Dodgers’ giant TV deal be the beginning of the end for giant TV deals?

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We talk a lot about the skyrocketing TV deals baseball teams are getting from cable operators these days. One wonders, though, whether or not we’re witnessing a bubble that’s going to soon burst. If it does, we may look at the Dodgers’ new TV deal as the beginning of the end.

The Dodgers TV deal with Time Warner is reported to be upwards of $8 billion. To pay for that, Time Warner is going to charge other carriers (Direct TV, Dish Network, other cable systems) $4 or $5 per subscriber for the right to carry the new Los Angeles Dodgers network they’re operating, with those costs passed on to the other carriers’ customers. This is how all sports TV rights deals go. It’s just way bigger with the Dodgers and Time Warner.

Many — probably most — of the customers who are seeing their cable bill go up are not Dodgers fans. They just want to watch Nick Jr. or History Channel or BBC America or any number of other channels. But, because you can’t (for the most part anyway) pick and choose which channels you get, the non-sports watchers are helping subsidize the sports watchers. Again, this is how it always works, but this time the rate hikes in question are going to be quite large.

Joe Flint and Bill Shaikin of the L.A. Times write about this today, and they talk to one former TV executive who thinks that such a pattern is unsustainable:

But non-sports fans and pay TV companies are increasingly frustrated at having to pick up the tab for big sports deals. There have been calls to sell sports channels “a la carte,” or separately from other programming.

The Dodger agreement with Time Warner Cable may be a tipping point.

“That is the solution everyone should be looking at seriously,” said Derek Chang, a former senior executive at satellite broadcaster DirecTV. Such a move, he added, may be the only way to lower the cost of TV sports. “Ultimately the market for fees would then reset.”

All it takes is a political groundswell — and someone talking about how we should think of the children who just want to watch “Spongebob” is a great way to get that going — for Congress to wade in and either begin legislating or begin threatening to legislate with respect to cable TV in such a way that a la carte pricing becomes available.  If it does, companies in Time Warner’s position won’t be able to demand across-the-board rights fees like they are now and, in turn, they won’t be able to offer sports teams like the Dodgers the billions of dollars in rights fees like they’re currently doing.

If that bubble bursts, down with it comes the TV money. Then down go the franchise values, which are escalating due to the TV money sports teams are attracting. If team values go down, team payrolls will eventually come down too.  No aspect of baseball finances would be untouched by it.

Will it happen? I don’t know. And if it does, I don’t know when. But I also know that no bubble in history has ever failed to burst, and that when they do burst, the bubbles tend to take down just about everyone.

A.J. Hinch responds to Ken Giles’ negative comments about Astros

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On Sunday, Blue Jays closer Ken Giles spoke to Rosie DiManno of the Toronto Star. Giles said, “I’m actually enjoying the game more than I did for my entire tenure in Houston.” Giles won a World Series with the Astros last year, but talked about communication issues with the Astros and compared them unfavorably to the Blue Jays. Giles described the communication as having been “lost” and credited the Jays for staying patient with him.

Astros manager A.J. Hinch responded to Giles’ comments on Monday. Per Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi, Hinch said:

I think he’s wrong and I’m disappointed that he would go down that path given how much work and time and energy and communication that our front office, our coaching staff, me, we all went through this with him. And I understand, there was some disappointment in his tenure as an Astro because of the turbulent way things went about. We gave him every opportunity, we communicated with him effectively, we have an incredible culture where every single player will tell you it’s one of the best cultures they’ve had, one of the best communication envrionments they’ve had. They all know their roles. They all know their situations. To have one person out of all the guys in our clubhouse come out and claim otherwise is flat wrong.

While Giles certainly could be embellishing or deliberately misconstruing his time there, Hinch’s rebuttal doesn’t actually disqualify anything Giles said. Giles certainly could have had a negative experience in Houston even if everyone else was enjoying the “incredible culture” and “one of the best communication environments.”

Given how the Astros — including Hinch — responded to criticism about their acquiring an accused domestic abuser, they’re not in the best position to boast about an “incredible culture” anyway.

At any rate, this is a he-said, he-said situation. If anything more comes of it, it will be Giles further torching a bridge.