With New TV Deals Across MLB, Braves Still Can’t Chop It


Liberty Media, owner of the Atlanta Braves.

Last week, I took a look at how the Yankees’ YES Network will eventually earn them over a half-billion dollars in revenue, as well as the potential for new ownership. Controversial, but nonetheless a wise business decision if you’re a member of the Steinbrenner family. Recently, it was also announced that Fox Sports will be paying the Los Angeles Dodgers upwards of $6 billion to retain the broadcasting rights to Dodgers games for a proposed 25 years. While the Yankees will still look to get under the $189 million luxury tax, the Dodgers spending essentially becomes fruitless and unlimited.

However, with these new expanding television markets also comes the chance for a team to quickly fall in terms of revenue and marketing. Such is the case with the Atlanta Braves. While the Braves are seemingly always poised for a championship run, anchored by a stalwart, mostly-young rotation as well as a potential MVP candidate in outfielder Jason Heyward (when healthy), the “Bravos” have bedded themselves with the wrong television company–Liberty Media.

In 2007, the Atlanta Braves and owner Ted Turner allowed Liberty Media to purchase the Braves broadcasting rights from Turner Broadcasting. The deal was approved by Major League Baseball in May ’07 with 60 million shares of Time Warner also going to Liberty Media. Currently, Atlanta Braves baseball is broadcast via three networks: Fox Sports South, Peachtree TV, and Sports South. Set to expire in 2031, it is believed that Liberty Media–one of the few publicly traded companies to own a sports team–severely hampers the Braves baseball-making decisions in terms of payroll.


A historic baseball franchise, the Atlanta Braves could find themselves facing baseball obscurity sooner rather than later. (Scott Cunningham/Getty Images North America)

While the Braves revenue increased in 2012, according to Liberty Media nonetheless, attendance is still mediocre at best for a winning team, and Atlanta is in the middle of the pack when it comes to spending. Featuring a 2012 payroll of $83,309,942 (ranking 16th out of 30 teams) and an attendance of 2,420,171 (ranking 21st of 30 teams), it’s easy to see why the Braves could struggle long-term when it comes to revenue. Whether it be the steamy summers, headache-provoking city traffic combined with spread-out fanbase, general fan apathy must also be addressed. While currently the favorites to sign free agent outfielder BJ Upton, the long-term revenue health of this team could slowly break apart. Currently, Forbes lists the Braves at a value of $508 million, but with the expansive and lucrative television deals we’ve seen in recent weeks like in New York and Los Angeles, not to mention expiring ones for the rival Philadelphia Phillies and the Seattle Mariners, you can’t help but wonder if the Braves are trapped, unable to chop their way out of their deal with Liberty Media.


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