Mariners Take Controlling Stake In New RSN; DirecTV To Remain Partner In Deal Through '30
The Mariners yesterday announced that the club had “purchased a controlling stake in a new regional television sports network to be run with DirecTV that would carry their games through the 2030 season,” according to Baker & Jenks of the SEATTLE TIMES. In addition to Mariners games, the RSN -- which will “retain the ROOT Sports name -- will also carry college and professional sports programming.” Officials from DirecTV and the Mariners “would not rule out eventually partnering" with hedge fund manager Chris Hansen to carry NBA and NHL games on the RSN "should his group land such franchises.” The move “opens the door to a major revenue boost for the Mariners that should enable them to compete with financial behemoths in their own division.” Mariners Exec VP/Business Operations Bob Aylward “would not disclose how much the Mariners paid for their majority share in the new venture, other than to term it a ‘significant’ expenditure.” DirecTV Sports President Patrick Crumb said that viewers will “notice little change in the arrangement.” The Mariners began a “new 10-year deal" with DirecTV's Root Sports Northwest in '11. The team had the ability to "opt out of the deal after 2015, a likely move since the cost of rights fees soared after that prior agreement was negotiated.” With the “potential for the Mariners to seek much higher rights fees from a different TV network in two years, or to simply form their own regional sports network outright, it gave them the leverage needed to change the relationship with DirecTV and become the big boss in the arrangement.” Besides the "benefits of ownership" in which the Mariners “can control the direction of all content, they can also shield certain broadcast monies from Major League Baseball's revenue-sharing agreement that they could not before" (SEATTLE TIMES, 4/17).
OPENING DOORS: In Tacoma, Ryan Divish writes the revenue generated by the new deal “should allow the Mariners to increase player payroll significantly.” Every team in the AL West has “recently tapped into the lucrative television market.” Aylward said that for the Mariners to “remain competitive -- and become more competitive -- they needed to take this step.” He said, “What drove the timing is what’s going on in the marketplace.” Crumb said that the RSN “still plans to continue its programming" for the MLS Sounders and Timbers, Gonzaga basketball, West Coast Conference basketball and Big Sky Conference football (Tacoma NEWS TRIBUNE, 4/17).