Disney buys a $1 billion stake in MLB’s streaming media division

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Walt Disney announced yesterday that it will pay a $1 billion to purchase a 33% stake in BAMTech, which is the streaming media unit created by Major League Baseball. ESPN will use BAMTech’s streaming platform to launch a new digital service, separate from its cable channels, that will air baseball, basketball and college football games that don’t appear on the regular ESPN networks. There will be no additional broadcast rights purchased by ESPN. Rather, it will be more about airing secondary and less popular matchups of the sports for which it already owns the rights.

From ESPN’s perspective, this represents a way to deal with cord cutters, who have cut their subscriptions to cable companies and who have cut into Disney’s revenues, which are driven tremendously by ESPN. For Major League Baseball this is obviously a huge cash infusion. One which will allow it to spin off BAMTech from MLB Advanced Media, which is where it is currently housed. MLBAM is, of course, its own spinoff of sorts from Major League Baseball itself.

In 1995, baseball’s total revenues were about $1.4 billion. That was for everything: gate, merchandise, broadcasting beer, hot dogs, you name it. In 2016 baseball got nearly that much for a minority share in a side business that didn’t even exist until a few years ago. Financially speaking, the game is doing pretty well.

No lease extension, but Orioles and governor tout partnership

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The Baltimore Orioles and Maryland Gov. Wes Moore announced a joint commitment to what they called a “multi-decade, public-private partnership” to revitalize the Camden Yards sports complex.

The statement from the team and the state’s new governor came Wednesday, the deadline for the Orioles to exercise a one-time, five-year extension to their lease at Camden Yards. The team was not planning to exercise that option, according to a person with knowledge of the decision. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the club hadn’t announced its decision.

With no extension, the lease is set to expire at the end of this year, but the team and the Maryland Stadium Authority can keep negotiating. Wednesday’s joint release seemed to be an attempt to calm any nerves in Baltimore about the team’s future.

“I am looking forward to continuing to collaborate with Governor Moore, his administration, and the Maryland Stadium Authority in order to bring to Baltimore the modern, sustainable, and electrifying sports and entertainment destination the state of Maryland deserves,” Orioles CEO John Angelos said.

“We greatly appreciate Governor Moore’s vision and commitment as we seize the tremendous opportunity to redefine the paradigm of what a Major League Baseball venue represents and thereby revitalize downtown Baltimore. It is my hope and expectation that, together with Governor Moore and the new members and new chairman of the MSA board, we can again fully realize the potential of Camden Yards to serve as a catalyst for Baltimore’s second renaissance.”

Republican Larry Hogan, the state’s previous governor, signed a bill last year increasing bond authorization for M&T Bank Stadium, home of the Baltimore Ravens, and Camden Yards. The measure allowed borrowing of up to $600 million for each stadium.

“When Camden Yards opened 30 years ago, the Baltimore Orioles revolutionized baseball and set the bar for the fan experience,” Moore, a Democrat, said Wednesday. “We share the commitment of the Orioles organization to ensuring that the team is playing in a world-class facility at Camden Yards for decades to come and are excited to advance our public-private partnership.”

Angelos recently reaffirmed that the Orioles would stay in Baltimore, although he dressed down a reporter who asked for more clarity on the future of the team’s ownership situation. Angelos was sued last year by his brother Lou, who claimed John Angelos seized control of the Orioles at his expense.