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.

MLB orders Josh Hader to sensitivity training, participation in diversity initiatives

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Major League Baseball released a statement about Josh Hader a few minutes ago. Here it is in its entirety:

“During last night’s game we became aware of Mr. Hader’s unacceptable social media comments in years past and have since been in communication with the Brewers regarding our shared concerns.  After the game, Mr. Hader took the necessary step of expressing remorse for his highly offensive and hurtful language, which fails to represent the values of our game and our expectations for all those who are a part of it.  The Office of the Commissioner will require sensitivity training for Mr. Hader and participation in MLB’s diversity and inclusion initiatives.”

People can parse Hader’s apology if they want to — I wrote about what I feel like Hader needs to say and do to show that his tweets truly are not representative of who he is now — but this is probably about as well as Major League Baseball can do with this. The tweets in question occurred years ago, before Hader was in professional baseball. They even occurred before Major League Baseball had a formal social media policy. MLB attempting some sort of way-after-the-fact punitive action on Hader like a fine or a suspension would (a) be met with some understandable resistance by Hader and the union; and (b) would look more like the league trying to deal with a P.R. crisis more than dealing with the player.

That being said, the sensitivity training and diversity initiative participation makes loads of sense. If, as Hader said last night, he’s a different person now than he was back in 2011-12, he should embrace such activities. They’re positive ones and, hey, who couldn’t use a brush-up? If his claims of being a changed man were merely a reaction to a social media firestorm, well, that’ll be dealt with pretty well in those arenas as well. Either way, this gives Hader an opportunity to put his money where his mouth is.

If you think making Hader do such things is “punishment,” well, that opens up another conversation altogether I suppose.