The latest team to cash in on MLB’s local rights boom is the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cardinals inked a 15-year deal with Fox Sports Midwest on Thursday that will add over $1 billion to the team’s coffers over the life of the deal. The contract will start in 2018, and the Cardinals’ rights fees will jump to to $50-55 million in the first year of the deal from $30-35 million in 2017, the final year in the previous deal with FS Midwest.
Roughly 150 games will be aired on the network with the new pact and, more importantly, the Cardinals will also be receiving a minority stake in the network going forward. The contract seems very similar, though it’s a shorter term, to the last local contract signed by an MLB team, the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Who’s left to cash in? The big one is obviously the Chicago Cubs, who have been struggling to launch their own network in one of the country’s biggest markets and signed a short-term contract with the city’s local ABC affiliate for a handful of games that used to be on WGN. The Reds still haven’t re-upped with FS Ohio, and their contract supposedly ends after the 2016 season. The Rockies have a short-term extension with Root Sports Rocky Mountain that reportedly ends in 2020. The Rays’ deal with FS Florida/SunSports ends in 2016, and the team’s uncertain future may have an impact on that deal. A quartet of midwest teams that draw strong local ratings, the Tigers, Royals, Brewers, and Pirates, all will be up for renegotiation in the next handful of years.
And really, that’s it – every other team in the league is either signed for the next decade plus or has an ownership stake in the network…aside from the Cleveland Indians, whose deal with FS Ohio is up in 2022, potentially putting them in a bad situation if the local sports bubble ever *does* pop.