The Philadelphia Phillies have completed a long-discussed television contract with Comcast. The new deal will pay the Phillies $2.5 billion over 25 years (an average of $100 million per season), beginning in 2016. Also in the new contract, the Phillies will receive a 25% ownership stake in CSN Philadelphia along with a piece of the advertising revenue generated by the network.
On the surface, it seems like the Phillies could have done better. After all, the Mariners have a controlling stake in Root Sports Northwest and are getting $115 million per year in rights. But these contracts aren't overly comparable due to the size of each team's respective market (Philly is fourth, Seattle just fell to 13th) and the longstanding history of CSN Philadelphia (which has been in operation since 1997, compared to less than three years for this incarnation of the Seattle RSN's name).
The total amount of rights held by CSN Philadelphia is also a huge advantage compared to Root. The Philly affiliate owns the rights for the 76ers, Flyers, and Union in addition to the Phillies while also providing coverage of the Eagles and Philadelphia's rich college basketball scene. Root Northwest holds the rights to the Mariners, the Sounders, and uh…the Portland Timbers and Utah Jazz along with providing coverage of the Seahawks and the Pac-12. When you consider that the Phillies are also getting a slice of the revenue those teams provide for Comcast, and a piece of the advertising pie as well, the deal is a huge win for the team.
That $100 million per year is still a monstrous total for rights fees. Only four clubs (both Los Angeles teams, the Rangers, and the Mariners) bring in more, though the Yankees and Mets see their fees go up on a yearly basis. Among those four clubs, only the Angels and Mariners have an ownership stake in their RSN as large as the Phillies' 25% – though the Dodgers' stake in SportsNet LA isn't known yet. The Angels, like the Mariners, aren't on a RSN that is loaded with attractive rights (thanks to the Lakers and Dodgers fleeing to Time Warner) like CSN Philadelphia, which somewhat tempers the benefits of the ownership stake.
With the Phillies out of the way, three teams are next on the docket for rights extensions – the Arizona Diamondbacks, Cincinnati Reds, and Colorado Rockies, with the Detroit Tigers and Tampa Bay Rays following soon thereafter. Once those teams are taken care of, a glut of teams from the midwest will look to renew, and then the market will become calm for the next decade. It'll be interesting to see how the dominos fall with the smaller market clubs after the Phillies, Angels, and Rangers, all playing in huge markets, have cashed in over the past couple of years.