Amid rumors of a shake-up in the ownership of the Seattle Mariners, the club appears to be making a move that will help it financially for years to come.
Geoff Baker, the Mariners scribe at the Seattle Times, is reporting that team ownership has a deal in place to buy controlling interest in ROOT Sports, a cable sports network in the Pacific Northwest that covers the Mariners, Seattle Seahawks, Seattle Sounders and others.
Think about how the New York Yankees have the YES Network, and the Boston Red Sox ownership has a large stake in NESN. With regional sports network contracts becoming pots of gold for franchises, the Mariners are looking toward the future. The team can opt-out of its current deal at the end of 2015 and then, presumably, go into business with itself.
Baker explains why this is financially prudent:
In baseball, it’s particularly popular because when you own the network, it enables you to shield money from MLB’s revenue-sharing pile.
The Yankees have been doing it for years. As owner of the network, the team charges itself a nominal sum for the right to broadcast games. That sum gets reported to MLB by the team as the revenue taken in for the rights to those games.
In some cases, the revenue might actually be two, three or even four times higher. But that gets run through the TV network’s books and is not associated with MLB revenue sharing. It’s a neat little trick and it’s done all the time.
Now, the Mariners will be able to take advantage like other teams have. In other words, they will have the revenues coming in to compete with payrolls much larger than they are now deploying against AL West behemoths like the Rangers and Angels
This comes after the Mariners improved their stadium (a huge new video board, among other things) in the offseason and locked up franchise star Felix Hernandez to a long-term deal. All of it, as some expect, could be getting things in order for the ownership shift. Either way, the Mariners have an eye toward the future. It'll be interesting to see what happens next.
UPDATE: The Mariners made it official Tuesday afternoon. The team announced its deal with DirecTV, which owns Root Sports. The new network will televise Mariners games through 2030. Executive Vice President Bob Aylward said the deal gives the club "resources to remain competitive for years to come."