Last month the Philadelphia Phillies signed a new television contract that was reportedly worth over $2.5 billion. The contract, which was signed along with the broadcasting giant CSN, will last 25 years and bring the Phillies an extra $100 million a year starting in 2016. Since the mid 2000’s television deals within the MLB landscape have exploded and teams are financially better off now than they ever have been before. That is except for a select few teams that are trapped in television deals signed pre-television deal boom or in the early stages of the boom. One of those teams is your Oakland Athletics and their television deal will be around for a while.
A couple of reports have surfaced since the A’s signed their contract with then CSN Bay Area (officially now CSN California). The contract lasts through 2035, but it includes the opportunity to opt out of the contract, probably for a small fee, in 2024.
There is no doubt the A’s will opt out at that time for a variety of reasons. The most obvious reason for the A’s to opt out is they can get a much better deal now than they did when they signed the contract. In 2009 the A’s were in the midst of their third straight losing season and again finding themselves near the bottom in attendance. The A’s are now primed to enter their third straight winning season and have slowly dug themselves out of the basement in attendance. That means more revenue, more fans, and a better chance of signing a bigger deal.
Another reason for the A’s to opt out in 2024 is the fact that they JUST MIGHT HAVE A NEW STADIUM. (I put that in capital letters just to make sure you realize it’s a maybe and obviously it has taken forever to find out that there still isn’t a resolution yet). Again, as stated above, a new stadium means more fans and more revenue thus making the team a more attractive and valuable television partner.
One of the reports I mentioned above, written by Wendy Thurm over at Fangraphs, detailed the breakdown of television deals amongst every MLB team and if readily available their financial terms. The A’s financial terms have never been disclosed and therefore their status amongst the other teams is/was solely based on hearsay and rumors. With that being said the A’s deal falls somewhere in between $15-$20 million a year. Outside of the anomaly that is the 2007 payroll the A’s had payrolls between $32 and $67 million from 2000 going into the 2014 season. What this proves is that the A’s television deal at no point has helped them to raise their payroll.
If the A’s can continue to win, continue to rise in attendance, continue to increase revenue, and possibly get a new stadium they might have a case to revisit their television deal in the near future. It would make sense for both sides, CSN and the A’s, to increase the value and length. The Phillies new deal is probably not a fair comparison given their recent winning pedigree, high payroll and high attendance, but it does bring to light that the A’s television deal is not what it should be.