Can spring be far behind?
It is time for pitchers and catchers to report to the 30 Major League Baseball teams’ spring training sites. Major League Baseball is doing well financially. Forbes Magazine claims MLB in 2019 took in a record $10.7 billion in revenue with a good chunk of that coming from television partners FOX, Disney’s ESPN and AT&T’s Turner Sports. While attendance did fall in 2019 from 2018 levels and MLB has since a seven percent drop in people in the stands since 2015, it appears corporate support is still strong for the industry in terms of selling club seats and luxury boxes and in the form of marketing partnerships. All of this is important because Major League Baseball sailed through some very rough seas in the off season. There was the sign stealing suspensions and then firings. The report that MLB wanted to cut 42 minor league teams from its development chain. That drew the ire of members of Congress and local politicians.
Television partners on the local level continue to pay handsomely for the product. But Los Angeles area cable operators are not budging when it comes to passing on a big increase in rates to consumers for Dodgers baseball. Since 2014, the Dodgers-owned SportsNet LA has been unable to get a carriage deal with local cable systems to carry Dodgers programming because of expense. The Chicago Cubs ownership now has a cable network and it remains to be seen if Cubs ownership will have the same carriage problems in the Chicago market. TV is putting a great deal of money into the product. It is programming. Local cable TV money is not going away. Nor is MLB’s streaming platform, another money maker. Until the money people say no, MLB will be fine. Keeping the money people happy is MLB’s job one.