The Philadelphia Phillies have more losses than any team in professional sports history. Add another giant loss their record as details of their television contract extension continue to leak to the public. The Phillies and Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia have agreed to a 25 year extension to their partnership believed to be worth $2.5 – $3 billion. The $100 million a year deal, which begins in 2015, gives the franchise an incredible 186% increase while also including a 25% ownership stake. The increase is nice, but when you look at the details, the Phillies may be getting fleeced.
Before discussing financial comparisons with other teams, a giant factor that continues to get overlooked is Comcast’s monopoly in Philadelphia with their sports network. Presently Directv, DishNetwork, and other competing satellite providers cannot offer Comcast SportsNet to their fans because the network will not sell to them. There has been litigation for years and while Verizon Fios found a loophole and offers the network, Directv and DishNetwork subscribers are left out in the cold for the majority of Phillies, Flyers, and Sixers games.
Here is an example. In 2001 I moved to the Princeton area where I could not get Comcast SportsNet. I lived in a Philadelphia market and wrote the Phillies explaining I was a long time season ticket holder and could only watch the few games that were not on Comcast. The Phillies wrote me back and explained that television was the gateway to fans and that they could not do anything about it at that time but would do anything they could when the time came to help individuals like myself that could not watch their games. Unless something was changed in this agreement, the Phillies have again screwed their fans that have a different cable/satellite provider. Fans that want Directv’s Sunday ticket AND to watch the Phillies are still out of luck unless they buy both services.
Another casualty in this deal is WPHL 17 in Philly. NBC 10 will take over the Sunday games and select other games. If you were a fan of the extended postgame show offered by channel 17 on Sunday’s, expect it to be nothing but a memory as NBC will jump either to their next sporting event or another network program.
Financially this deal does not make sense for the Phillies. The Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Angels, and Texas Rangers all have received more lucrative deals than the Phillies. The Dodgers deal is reportedly worth between $7-$8 billion while the Angels and Rangers are around the $3 billion mark for only 20 years compared to the Phillies 25. While some could argue the Dodgers deal being worth more, how can anyone argue that the Angels or Rangers should be paid more than the Phillies?
For comparison purposes, we will compare the Phillies, Dodgers, and Angels viewership and allow you to judge whether this is a good deal for the franchise. In 2010 Comcast had an average of 247,000 households watching Phillies games for the season. That number increased to 267,000 households through the All Star break in 2011. The Dodgers had an average of 92,000 households in 2010 and dropped off to 65,000 in 2011. The Angels had an average of 68,000 households in 2010 and 64,000 households in 2011. To put that into perspective, if you took the Dodgers and Angels households and added them together, they barely beat the 112,000 households that watched Phillies postgame live and did not come near the 267,000 number that the Phillies had. Consider that Ricky Botallico had nearly as many viewers as two MLB teams that combined will be paid $10 billion.
Despite these facts, the Dodgers will get between $7 and $8 billion for their next television contract while the Angels will get $3 billion or $148 million per year as opposed to the Phillies $2.5 billion or $100 million per year, also receiving an equity component, and will be able to bargain for their next contract 5 years before the Phillies can.
Taking a closer look at this deal, the Phillies are getting fleeced, satellite subscribers are being fleeced, and the team with the biggest market with only one team will continue to operate like a second rate team. I guess it is true, you can never truly escape your past. The 10,000 loss mentality continues…
Bill Zeltman is the cohost of MTR Morning Throwdown on MTR Radio every weekday from 7-9am EST. Bill has written nearly 3,000 articles about the Philadelphia Phillies since 2007 and has been following the team avidly since 1980. Bill is the cofounder of MTR Radio and has an MBA in marketing. He is currently pursing a doctorate in Organizational Leadership. Follow Bill on Facebook and Twitter.