Baseball: Must See (Live!) TV

The rest of the nation may be dealing with a fiscal cliff, but Major League Baseball climbs a fiscal mountain. Teams have already dropped a billion-and-a-half on free agents this offseason. The two Los Angeles clubs have anted up one-third billion of that.

The pipeline is being fed by TV money. National and regional TV deals are going through the roof. The Dodgers anticipate their next deal to be worth more than $6 billion, the Angels compete in the same market, the Indians just made a sale to FOX that’ll net them $400 mil over the next 10 years, all clubs will get a raise next year in their cuts of MLB’s national deal.

And so on. What’s behind this explosion?

Call it the DVR Effect. Or, the Hulu Syndrome.

Think about it: Sports is virtually the last remaining programming telecast coast-to-coast live. Everything else is time-shifted for prime-time viewing in each time zone. Network news, series, “live” specials. I’m not sure, but the Oscars may be the lone remaining exception.

Given the canned quality of fare anyway, people take advantage of technologies that enable them to record shows, then skip commercials on playback.

So if you are an advertiser needing to get your pitch to the public, sports offer the only reliable option — because people will not sacrifice that immediacy for the convenience of ad-blocking. They’ve gotta know NOW.

Knowing your message will get to the audience=$$$$$.

We have seen that economic law at work in Super Bowls for decades, and the rest of the sports universe now is being caught up in the drag.

Alas, another unassailable fact of these economics is market size. Greater the potential viewership, the bigger the bucks. So the gap will widen between baseball franchises. Every team will see a growth in its TV revenue, but that will remain relative to its audience.


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