Business of Baseball Report

Cablevision Expected to Carry SportsNet New York

Despite the fact that Cablevision sued the New York Mets for breach of contract and tried to prevent them from moving forward with their new sports network, the team and the cable company are very close to a cable deal. The Mets eventually beat Cablevision in court and moved forward with their regional sports network, SportsNet New York, and the inflow of additional revenue is what many people think was a driving force behind some very aggressive and expensive offseason moves by the Mets.

Time Warner and Comcast have already agreed to carry the network, but the deal with Cablevision would nearly double the amount of subscribers who would have access to Mets games. As it stands, 3.1 million have access to SportsNet New York while the Cablevision deal will add nearly 3 million more. At this point in time, financial terms of the deal have not been disclosed.

In other Mets news, the team appears set to benefit from the free-agent signings that they made to solidify the team. Ticket sales increased 22 percent last year and the 2.83 million fans were very close to the record three million fans the team drew in 1988. Mets’ senior executive vice president Jeff Wilpon indicated that he expects attendance be close to 3.5 million in 2006.

Blank Backs Off From Braves Purchase

This seems to be happening to me a lot. Last week I talked about how talks were progressing between Time Warner and Arthur Blank regarding the sale of the Atlanta Braves. By Thursday morning, when my story was posted, I got an e-mail from Bob Timmerman, who writes at The Griddle, letting me know that Blank walked away from the negotiating table because he didn’t like the $400 million purchase price. Blank was the only person who had gotten permission from the league to talk to Time Warner about the Braves, so the sale has hit a road block, although a spokesman for Blank indicated that talks were suspended, not terminated.

Time Warner was able to unload Turner South. Fox Cable Networks agreed to buy the network, and it’s expected that the cable station will now be more sports oriented than it has in the past. Fox bought the company for $375 million and will now have rights to show every Atlanta Braves game that isn’t televised nationally by ESPN or TBS.

Union Head Indicates No Time Table Set for Labor Talks

Donald Fehr, head of the baseball players’ union indicated in a recent interview that a date hasn’t been set to renegotiate the collective bargaining agreement between the players and the league. The current CBA expires on December 19, 2006, and Fehr said that it’s way too early to be sitting down at the negotiation table at this point in time.

There’s a chance that this could be the smoothest CBA negotiations ever, at least between the players and the owners. Maury Brown, in his first installment on the CBA negotiations, indicates that it could be more of a battle between the large-market owners and the small-market owners. It’s a great read so be sure to check it out if you haven’t already.

Twins Owner Might Finally Get His Wish in 2006

It’s been a long wait for Minnesota Twins owner Carl Pohlad, but the billionaire might finally be getting close to a deal for a new stadium. Leaders of the four legislative caucuses indicated that they probably have enough votes to get the latest plan passed in the current legislative session that begins today.

The current plan would put the stadium in Hennepin County, and it would assess a 0.15 percent sales tax within the county. The reason the sales tax increase has to go through the legislature is because the county is trying to bypass the public without giving them a chance to vote for the tax hike.

It’s unclear whether the recent court decision stating that the Twins aren’t required to play in the Metrodome after the 2006 season had any effect on the recent interest in the stadium deal. Several stories in the press have thrown around words like contraction and relocation, so it’s clear that 2006 might mean it’s now or never to get a stadium bill passed.

Court Waiting on MLB Before Granting Stadium Land to Washington, D.C.

While the MLB front office drags its feet on deciding whether to agree to the last machination of the stadium lease passed by the Washington, D.C. city council, they’re also holding up the city’s ability to take possession of the land where the Washington Nationals’ next stadium will be built. D.C. Superior Court Judge Joan Zeldon stated that she wouldn’t hand over possession of the land to the city until the league agrees to the lease and its $611 million spending limit. City officials were optimistic on the one hand because it looks like there are no legal barriers to the city possessing the land, although they were hoping to have possession by February 7 so they could stick with the current schedule of opening the stadium in 2008.

MLB has until March 6 to agree to the lease deal. Of course they’ve expressed concerns about the cap on stadium spending which would require the eventual owner of the Nationals to pay for any cost overruns over and above the $611 million cap.

New Yankee Stadium Passes Another Hurdle

Last week, the 12-member City Planning Commission voted to approve the plan to build a new Yankee Stadium on park land not too far from the current home of the New York Yankees. There are conflicting reports on how long the city council has to act on the stadium plan, but it should go up for a vote some time in the next two months.

To finance the new stadium, the Yankees are looking to secure $800 million in tax-exempt bonds. Opponents of the plan are concerned that the replacement parks would be scattered throughout the community, and they’re very pessimistic that the new stadium will provide the area with any financial benefit.

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