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Volume 24 No. 159

Leagues and Governing Bodies

After surpassing its record $7B in revenue this season, MLB "heads into its winter meetings this week primed for another season of lucrative free-agent contracts," according to Matthew Futterman of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. Though MLB's business "isn't perfect, it is probably as healthy as it has been since the rise of the players union in the 1970s." Despite a "struggling economy, the game's 30 teams sold more than 73.4 million tickets this year," its fifth highest total ever and the most since '08. MLB Exec VP/Business Tim Brosnan said, "Our story is about content, content, content and the value of it." Futterman notes MLB "isn't without its trouble spots," with 17 teams that "sold less than 65% of their tickets" in '11. MLB Commissioner Bud Selig has said that he was "troubled by the small audiences for the first round of the playoffs, which are broadcast exclusively on cable channels TBS and TNT." Additionally, the Rays and A's "are desperate for new ballparks and without public support may be forced to relocate." Still, several broadcasters "are preparing to bid for national television rights." The current contracts "expire after the 2013 season, and the sport is set to take advantage of what has become a fervent market for the rights to the highest profile sports." Media experts believe that national rights fees will "increase 25% to 40% from the current level of roughly $700 million per year." In addition, the league-owned MLB Network "is now in 65 million homes and collects roughly $200 million a year in subscriber fees" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 12/5).

WINTER WONDERLAND: In Denver, Troy Renck notes with a CBA "in place, with budgets mapped out and deep-pocketed owners eager to Christmas shop, the possibilities are limitless" for this week's winter meetings in Dallas. Cubs GM Jed Hoyer said, "It's going to be an exciting time with a lot of action" (DENVER POST, 12/5).