The Phillies current TV deal with Comcast ends in 2015 and it’s been long assumed that Comcast would be willing to pony up megabucks to renew it. The Astros — THE ASTROS — new cable deal with Comcast SportsNet Houston will make $3.2 billion dollars for the team over the next 20 years. And allow me to reiterate that deal is for the Houston Astros who had the lowest local television ratings in all of baseball. The Phillies, who as of the end of the 2012 season were seventh in baseball for local ratings, would be in for an even bigger payday.
But according to a report by Jeff Passan, Fox Sports is interested in making a play for the Phillies’ TV rights and would look to make the Phillies the centerpiece of a new local sports channel.
Fox Sports, which has scooped up local rights to about half of baseball, wants to further its grip on the sport in anticipation of Fox Sports 1, the all-day sports channel expected to launch in August.
“And they want Philadelphia,” one source with knowledge of Fox’s plans said. “They got the Yankees [by buying a share of the YES Network], which helps. They’re not going to have the Red Sox. They’re not going to have the Mets. They want another East Coast team.”
A Fox Sports local channel here would pair with the Fox’s new national sports channel that will launch in August. Fox Sports 1 will feature a lot of baseball simulcasts from its Fox Sports Net regional channels, including Yankees and Dodgers games.
Fox is already making a massive move in the cable sports landscape with the upcoming launch of its new 24-hour sports network, Fox Sports 1 coming later this year. It already carries the local broadcast rights for 17 of the 30 clubs in MLB, including stakes in the Yankees’ YES Network and ROOT Sports in Pittsburgh, Denver, and Seattle. Fox also inked three of the five biggest cable deals in baseball history: Angels (17 yrs/$2.5 b.), Rangers (20 yrs/$1.7 b.), Padres (20 yrs/$1.2 b.) so there’s a precedent for the move.
It seems unlikely that the Philadelphia-based Comcast would let their hometown team slip through their fingers. It’d be an embarrassing loss at home to a major rival. And, even if Fox Sports did win the Phillies’ TV rights and start a new cable network, CSN could always just refuse to carry it, effectively crippling the network. But that would almost certainly result in a mass exodus of severely pissed off Comcast subscribers who want to watch the team.
So there’s no real answer here, other than that a potential Fox/Comcast bidding war probably has the Phillies front office excited. After all, the only reason the Dodgers snagged a cool $7 billion for their TV deal is because Fox Sports and Time Warner Cable got into a bidding war over the rights, with TWC eventually winning out. There are a lot of questions still to be answered regarding the Dodgers/TWC deal, but either way, the team’s ownership is in for a massive cash infusion.
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