SBJ Media: Twins, Guardians see rights squeeze – Sports Business Journal

The end of an era comes shortly as Jim Nantz calls his final basketball game. Count me as one of many who will miss hearing his voice on the Final Four.
Diamond Sports missed rights fees payments to the Guardians and the Twins and entered a 15-day cure period to make the payment without penalty, according to several sources.

Diamond, which owns and operates the Bally Sports-branded RSNs, made payments on time to at least eight teams within the past week: the Angels, Braves, Brewers, Cardinals, Marlins, Rays, Royals and Tigers. The fact that Diamond made at least eight payments on time shows that it is serious about emerging from bankruptcy protection as a fully intact company.

One reason for withholding the Twins payment is due not so much to the size of its rights contract but its length. The Twins deal with Bally Sports North ends after this season, and sources say the team has not been receptive to cutting a new deal.

The Guardians are in a different situation. That team’s deal with Bally Sports Great Lakes runs through 2027, and while the money is not considered huge — averaging in the neighborhood of $50 million per year — the deal carries some terms considered greatly favorable to the team. It’s not clear what those terms are, but it’s worth noting that in 2013, the Guardians owners sold its Cleveland-area RSN — SportsTime Ohio — to Fox Sports.

A main question comes down to what will happen to the Guardians and Twins rights if Diamond does not pay within its cure period. Almost immediately, MLB will petition the bankruptcy court to make a decision about who controls those rights and whether bankruptcy affords Diamond protection in this case.

MLB clearly believes that the rights will go back to the teams. League execs have said that it has arrangements in place to produce and distribute the games in both markets, though it has been short on specifics and cost structures.

Last week, Diamond made its rights fee payment to the Padres on the final day of its cure period with that team. That does not necessarily mean that the Padres are set for the season, as another payment is due in 60 days, sources said.

The Rangers and the Reds are the next teams due payments, which I’m told are due by the middle of April. Sources predicted that it’s unlikely the Reds will be paid on time. The Rangers’ status with Diamond is not as clear.

Bally Sports viewership from Opening Day shows the popularity of local sports rights. Nine of Diamond’s 14 MLB teams posted ratings increases, with five of those increases eclipsing 20%.

Here are the superlatives:
Anyone who wants to know about Endeavor’s plans for WWE should study how the company handled its 2016 UFC acquisition. That was the main point I got from my 7am call with Endeavor’s Mark Shapiro on Monday. “We’re going to run the UFC playbook,” he said. “The opportunity to put Vince McMahon’s creative head with Dana and Ari is going to create a significant amount of value for shareholders.”

Shapiro cited a stat that 80% of WWE’s net revenues come from media. He believes Endeavor will be able to grow WWE’s sponsorship, licensing, hospitality and ticketing businesses. It will be able to further develop stars through non-scripted shows, films and commercial endorsements. “That’s the strategy,” Shapiro said. “That’s how it has successfully played out for the UFC over the last six years. Remember when we bought it for $4.1 billion? People thought that price was crazy. Now, it is valued at $12.1 billion. I mean, what a story. We hope to do the same thing with the WWE.”
It was a strategy that spoke to WWE. “In many internal conversations that Vince and I would have with one another, the question wasn’t whether we thought we could do it all on our own. Yes, we could do it on our own, but it probably takes 10 years,” said WWE CEO Nick Khan.

Then there’s the media rights deals. WWE’s deal is up at the end of 2024. UFC’s deals expire at the end of 2025. WWE’s exclusive windows with Fox and NBC just opened. Endeavor will not be front-and-center with these negotiations until the deal closes, expected by the end of the year.

Endeavor’s Ari Emanuel was in L.A., sitting next to McMahon during WrestleMania. Shapiro remained in N.Y., staying up until midnight when the deal closed. “While Ari’s at SoFi sitting next to Vince and doing high-fives, we’re in the boiler room getting it done,” Shapiro said with a laugh.
I had a spy at WrestleMania on Sunday who caught this moment between Ari Emanuel (l) and Mark Lazarus. Those two will see a lot of each other as the WWE media rights negotiation moves forward
I’ve run out of superlatives to describe the media performance of this year’s NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship, so I asked SBJ’s Austin Karp to come up with a list of sports events that posted similar TV audiences.
The idea was to get a glimpse at how the ABC/ESPN2’s audience of 9.9 million viewers for LSU-Iowa stacked up against other sports. I was not surprised to see how good its comps are. Here’s what Karp came up with … 
LSU-Iowa outdrew:
LSU-Iowa was in the neighborhood of:
Toward the end of the Orioles’ Sunday afternoon loss in Boston, MASN’s announcers — Kevin Brown and Jim Palmer — engaged in a spirited three-minute discussion of “Fever Pitch,” a movie that was filmed in Fenway Park.

Light in-game discussions like that were a reason why this booth was popular among Baltimore fans last year. As new MLB rules increased the pace of play, the fear was that Brown and Palmer would not have time to break into these kinds of asides.

So far, through three Orioles games this season, Brown said he’s noticed the faster pace, of course. But he also said that his approach to calling games has not changed. “I noticed when the pitch clock is at three and a pitcher hasn’t thrown yet,” Brown told me today. “I’m basically still calling the game the way I used to call it, which is really comforting because I was worried that I would have to radically change the way that I call a game. … We can have the same level of fun.”

I view Brown as one of the best young broadcasters in the game. He admitted that he made some mistakes around the new rules on Opening Day when he was momentarily confused by two pitch clock violations. “After one game, I felt like I understood what the umpires’ hand gestures mean,” he said.

Early in the season, Brown will explain the new rules over the course of the game. He’s not sure when — or if — that part of calling baseball games will change. “People are going to be so sick of me saying the word ‘disengagement,'” Brown said with a laugh. “That’s because I’m currently sick of me saying the word ‘disengagement.’ But you have to tell people. For a while, I’m going to lean on the side of over-telling people what’s happening.”

When he talks of “disengaging,” he’s referring to the new rule that allows pitchers to try to pick off base runners or step off the pitching rubber — “disengaging” — twice in a plate appearance.
Given that Japan won the World Baseball Classic, I suspected that the event would post huge TV numbers in the country. But it wasn’t until I saw these numbers from SBJ’s Austin Karp that I truly grasped the WBC’s popularity in Japan, which had the best WBC rating in any country in the history of the event.

Surprisingly to me, Japan’s championship win against the U.S. did not have the biggest audience. Instead, it was the country’s quarterfinal win over Italy, which drew around 38 million viewers to TV Asahi. That’s the audience equivalent of what an NFL Divisional playoff game does in the U.S. The game had a 48.7 local rating in Japan, which is second-best telecast ever on TV Asahi, behind only the Japan-Croatia FIFA World Cup group stage match from 2006 (52.7).

Japan-Italy was not only the best WBC game ever in any country, but that game (along with Japan-South Korea from the first round of the WBC) outdrew every live sports telecasts from the 2021 Tokyo Summer Olympics on Japanese TV.

Six of the seven Japan WBC games posted audiences over 30 million in their home country. The only one to not hit that number was the championship game against the U.S., which aired in the morning in Japan and drew 29 million viewers. All seven games, however, had above a 40.0 rating in Japan, which is essentially what the Super Bowl draws in the U.S.
Tim Brando signed an extension that will keep the play-by-play announcer calling college football and basketball games at Fox Sports through 2026. The deal is a meaningful one for Brando, who will celebrate his 40th year on national TV in 2025.

Brando is about to start his 10th year with Fox. Before that, he spent 18 years at CBS, three at Turner and nine at ESPN. Brando started at ESPN in 1985.
Register for a free SBJ account to unlock one extra article per month.

© 2023 Leaders Group. All rights reserved.The material on this site may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, cached or otherwise used, except with the prior written permission of Leaders Group.
© 2023 Leaders Group. All rights reserved. The material on this site may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, cached or otherwise used, except with the prior written permission of Leaders Group.
Already a subscriber? Click below to sign in.
Upgrade your subscription to get all the news you need:
Adding SBJ weekly content will give you the comprehensive view of sports business with:
Already a subscriber? Click below to sign in.
Upgrade your subscription to get all the news you need:
Adding SBJ daily content will give you the comprehensive view of sports business with:


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back To Top