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Daily coverage of the Mariners during the season and all year long.

Category: attendance
April 16, 2013 at 12:17 PM

Mariners confirm they have assumed controlling stake in new local TV partnership

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ADDITIONAL NOTE: If you missed last night’s edition of The Geoff Baker Show on Sports Radio KJR, you can hear it by clicking the box above.

Well, this is certainly a game-changer on the TV front that we’re seeing today, with the Mariners now confirming our earlier post that they have indeeed assumed a controlling stake in a new regional sports network (RSN) partnership with DirecTV — the company that owns and operates ROOT Sports — that will run through the 2030 baseball season.

The RSN will continue to operate under the ROOT Sports brand, only DirecTV will now be the minority partner in this Northwest branch of its operations. The other RSNs owned by DirecTV in other parts of the country remain unchanged.

“This is great news for the Mariners and for sports fans in the Northwest,” Mariners executive VP (business operations) Bob Aylward said in a release. We are excited to continue our partnership with DIRECTV Sports Networks in this new way. We are investing to own a majority share of the new venture, and committing our rights well into the future, confident that this will maximize the value of our television rights and, more importantly, provide the resources to remain competitive on the field for many years to come.”

What that means is, the Mariners will now not only own and control their television rights, but all the on-air content and distribution of their games and will be able to reap the same benefits as other teams that have gone down this same path. In their own division, they’ve seen the Angels and Rangers already score 20-year, $3-billion deals by leveraging the value of their rights to the highest TV bidder. The Mariners just went down a different path, leveraging the power of a 2015 opt-out clause in their current deal with ROOT to re-arrange the terms of their partnership and become the big boss.

Essentially, they have cut out the middleman. Not completely, mind you, since DirecTV will still supply all the TV infrasructure and distribution networks and make money off their smaller stake in the partnership. But the Mariners, as majority owners, will now get to keep more of the incoming money than they ever did before.

Why would DirecTV do this? As I said before, the Mariners could have left them high and dry in two years and gone into business with another network. Better to have a smaller piece of some action if you’re DirecTV than a large piece of zero action.

“This is an opportunity to strengthen and extend our relationship with the Mariners for decades while continuing to leverage DIRECTV Sports Networks’ overall resources and expertise for the benefit of our new partnership with the Mariners in the Northwest region,” said Patrick Crumb, president of DirecTV Sports Northwest. “This new structure will truly align our interests and allow us to work together to maximize the potential for the network and our coverage of Northwest sports.”

This move also gives the Mariners a huge pre-emptive strike in terms of the changing Seattle sports landscape should Chris Hansen and his group manage to secure NBA and NHL franchises.


Comments | More in attendance | Topics: ROOT Sports; Mariners; Chris Hansen, RSN

April 11, 2013 at 11:12 AM

Mariners plummeting attendance and reasons why pre-season buzz hasn’t mattered much

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ADDITIONAL NOTE: There is word the Mariners are about to acquire starting pitcher Aaron Harang from the Rockies for a non-40-man-roster minor league pitcher in a move that requires MLB approval, namely because cash will be included to offset some of his salary. For those who missed it, there was good conversation about the Mariners and their attendance yesterday during my two-hour co-hosting stint with colleague Jerry Brewer on the Elise and Jerry Show on Sports Radio KJR. The first hour is in the box above and the second hour in the box below. 

Another record-low crowd turned out last night to watch the Mariners dig themselves into an early season hole by losing once again to the Houston Astros. No, it is not time to panic yet. The Mariners may have just embarassed themselves a bit on a national scale by getting blown out twice by a team everybody expects to lose 100 or more games this season, but Seattle is still just two games under .500.

The season is only 10 games old. Everybody needs to get a grip. Yes, the young core is not living up to its billing. Yes, the rotation after the top two spots remains highly suspect, especially on the back end. And yes, you would expect more from this team in the fifth year of its rebuilding plan and, quite frankly, this corner does expect more. A lot more. Anybody not expecting more at this stage should be asking themselves how long a normal season ticketholder should be expected to wait in order to watch half-decent baseball.

But again, we are only 10 games into a 162-game schedule. The losses to the Astros only count for as much as defeats suffered against the best teams in the game. Life goes on. Even without Michael Saunders.

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If Saunders misses a month, there is nothing Casper Wells was going to do to help this team more than the players already here. Wells had more than a month of regular playing time last season and was badly exposed. The Mariners have MLB players on their current squad who have shown they can play full-time in the big leagues and not have their numbers dive off a cliff. They have Endy Chavez in Class AAA if they desire an extra center fielder at the big league level and he has outperformed Wells over the course of his career playing full-time in the majors.

The fate of this season didn’t rest on the decision to keep or jettison Wells. It always relied upon — and still does — the ability of the so-called young core of players to show that the past four years of rebuilding weren’t just an excuse for the Mariners to bide time until they re-stocked their coffers and grew their franchise value on-the-cheap. That means the core of Justin Smoak, Dustin Ackley, Kyle Seager, Jesus Montero and other names in the starting rotation and in the bullpen will have to show they are different from the young players every other team has in some form or another.

And this crew should be different. After all, the Mariners have gained plenty of top draft picks over the years due to their abysmal on-field performance. They also have made some high-profile trades. They have taken the Tampa Bay Rays/Cleveland Indians approach to rebuilding that involves sacrificing multiple seasons at a time in the name of forming some type of core that will enable them to someday contend without having to spend a boatload of money relative to what they take in.

And make no mistake: the Mariners continue to take money in. They made just under $6 million in profit last year despite losing 87 games.

Unfortunately, like the Rays and Indians before them, the Mariners now have trouble drawing more than friends and relatives to home games even when there is some pre-season buzz about the team.

This is one of the aspects of long-term rebuilding plans that those who tout the Rays and used to tout the Indians as prime examples of doing things “The Right Way” either tend to gloss over, or forgot to do research on in the first place.


Comments | More in attendance | Topics: justin smoak; dustin ackley; michael saunders; casper wells