One of the bigger free agent signings after the 2013 season was Robinson Cano. And when the Seattle Mariners signed him, some wondered why he would elect to leave the bright lights of New York. Of course, a lot of it had to do with the money in the 10-year, $240 million contract.
Observers asked how could Seattle afford it and if you look at the Mariners’ deal with DirecTV that gives the team a 71% ownership stake in Root Sports Northwest, that’s where the M’s found the cash to sign Cano.
But when you sign a player, you expect to get something in return and this is where it gets interesting. Thanks to Cano and a team in playoff contention until the end of the season, the Mariners saw increased attendance in 2014 at Safeco Field, its highest in four years and it led to an $11.6 million profit.
With a team vying for the postseason, ratings on Root Sports NW rose by almost 20% as compared to 2013. Forbes’ Michael Ozanian says with the higher viewership and the new TV deal in effect, the regional sports network earned $20 million according to DirecTV’s year-end earnings report.
Seeing how the Mariners made money, it’s no wonder why teams are so eager to sign megadeals with regional sports networks. The Angels, Dodgers, Padres and Rangers over recent years have signed for big money with Fox and Time Warner. In the case of the Dodgers and the Mariners, they have ownership stakes or outright ownership of their channels and can generate revenues on top of what they’re receiving at the ballpark.
It’s all about keeping up with the Joneses and as long as the networks are willing to pony up, the teams will be waiting with open arms and fully-inked pens to sign on the dotted line to ensure they have cash and their long-term profitability.