For years the Braves have been given at least a partial pass on spending decisions because of the state of their TV deal. It has been widely reported to be among one of the worst in baseball, with some estimates going as low as $20 million a year. That’s less than a tenth the size of the Dodgers’ deal and would place the Braves near the bottom in all of baseball in TV revenue. This despite having one of the largest single-team municipal markets in the game and despite their regional reach across the entire south.
It’s hard to find exact figures, of course, and to my knowledge, no one with the team has ever come out and said what the TV dollars actually are. At the same time, no one with the club has pushed back on the often-repeated claim that the numbers are in the low eight-figures. To the contrary, when Liberty Media bought the team they nodded often at the notion that the TV deal was near the bottom and, at best, presented it as “not crippling” because it’s something that they could maybe work around via cost-cutting and other revenue sources. A Brave face, shall we say, being put on a dire situation, but one that always came with the understanding that, because the TV deal was so bad, the Braves didn’t have the ability to spend like a lot of teams did.
Today, however, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that the Braves do far better on the TV side than they’ve allowed people to believe: they’ll make around $83 million this year, Liberty Media’s CEO said at a presentation last month, and it will rise to $113 million between now and its expiration in 2028. That’s still not as gaudy as a lot of teams, but it places them far more squarely in the middle of the TV pack than it does near the bottom and paints a far more rosy picture of their TV revenue than previously existed.
This news comes at a time when the Braves, despite spending the past two seasons talking about how their rebuild has given them the “financial flexibility” to “shop in any aisle” for baseball talent, have actually cut payroll. That cut coming despite the fact that the Braves are the defending division champs and, logically, should be in a win-now, talent-acquisition mode. Meanwhile, overall revenues — which includes TV, even if the numbers have not been itemized before now — have gone up from $262 million in 2016 to $442 million last year.
Which is to say that the Braves are rolling in money while cutting payroll and, at least allowing the perception of a sharply unfavorable TV deal to persist. How inspiring for Braves fans.