Major League Baseball officially signed off on a new TV deal with Fox and Turner Sports Tuesday. Combined with its previous announced pact with ESPN, MLB teams will pull in $12.4 billion over 8 years, beginning in 2014.
The $1.5 annual haul more than doubles the current national TV package. All told each team will have in the neighborhood of an additional $27 million to play with.
So what does mean for Joe Fan? I worry that the Yankees payroll will be $12.4 billion in 2021.
During a conference call Tuesday, I asked MLB Commissioner Bud Selig to assess the impact the extra funds would have on ticket prices, player salaries, and competitive balance.
Selig: That question could be asked every year. These are big increases. The revenue has grown. So have our expenses, and payrolls.
I’ve often said, having run a club myself, that everybody knows their own market. They will know in 2014.
Obviously, they are getting a huge increase, but everybody will then determine exactly not only what they will do with the money, but how it will impact their payroll as well as their ticket prices and everything else. We have 30 franchises with indigenous characteristics. It will vary. But they will make their own decisions, based on all of these facts.
(And a pat on the back for MLB)
This is a great day for baseball. In the past, people said, ‘Baseball isn’t this, or baseball isn’t that.’ We’ve proven in last 10 or 15 years that baseball is everything. The great manifestation is to have your outside partners tell you how valuable it is. I’m sure the clubs are happy today.
Then I followed up by asking specifically about ticket prices. Will the additional TV money help teams hold the line on prices?
Evidently, I hit a hot button with Selig.
Selig: I want to say this to you about that. The last eight years have been the best eight years for baseball. We’re going to draw close to 75 million people this year. My father used to say, ‘nothing is ever good or bad, except by comparison.’ We’ve held the line on ticket prices. Baseball doesn’t get enough credit for that.
We wouldn’t be drawing these stunning numbers of fans if the ballpark experience and the price of tickets wasn’t within reason for families. We’ll continue to do that. That’s not my goal, it’s everybody’s goal. Baseball is family entertainment. Prices have to be sensitive to families. We have been remarkably so in comparison to everyone else.
It wasn’t the proper forum to engage a debate about ticket prices. And Selig is right as it relates to recent years. According to Team Marketing Report, MLB ticket prices were relatively flat in 2012, going up only 1 percent.
However, TMR says the average ticket price has increased 47 percent since 2002, jumping from $18.31 to $26.98. Only the NFL, where they print money, had a higher increase.
I live in Chicago, where the Cubs rank third among teams with a $46.30 average ticket price. That doesn’t include $7 for a beer and $25 for parking, assuming you can find a spot around Wrigley Field. TMR estimates it costs a family of four $300 to attend a Cubs game.
Yes, that is much less than the NFL, NBA and NHL, but baseball also plays far more games.
Bottom line, Mr. Commissioner: It’s still pretty expensive to go to take the family to the ballpark. Here’s hoping teams will use the new TV bounty to help keep prices in line.