To paraphrase a line from the classic “Take Me Out To The Ball Game,” Root, Root, Root is now a tax write-off for the home team.
The Seattle Mariners have re-upped their current decade-long $450 million deal to air games on the regional sports network Root Sports Northwest, in a big way: they’re taking over the network next to outright.
The Mariners have acquired a majority stake in the Seattle-based RSN from DirecTV Sports Networks, which maintains ownership of three other regional sports networks with the Root name serving Pittsburgh, Denver and Utah; DirecTV purchased these networks in 2008 from Fox Sports, which continues to operate a host of FSN-branded regionals across the country (naturally, this foursome was known as “FSN” as well).
The new deal shatters the existing one, with the Mariners now doling out $2 billion over the next seventeen years, guaranteeing the team’s presence on Root Sports Network not only for the remainder of the current decade, but all of the next one.
The Mariners become the fourth team in the AL West division to have a large stake in its broadcast partner: both the Texas Rangers and the Los Angeles (Anaheim) Angels have a deal with Fox Sports, while the Houston Astros – in its first season as an occupant in the AL West – are partners with Time Warner Cable; the lone team in this division without such a setup is the Oakland A’s.
Could we see the remainder of DirecTV’s Root networks being farmed out to one of the teams on their air? Could we see the Colorado Rockies get high with Root Sports Rocky Mountain? Might the Utah Jazz (whose games are occasionally seen on Root Sports Northwest, incidentally) make some music with Root Sports Utah?
Before you know it, in this age of high sports business dollars, we could see a major sports franchise sowing oats with a regional sports network in virtually every market.
That would buy a lot of peanuts and Cracker Jacks.