No News to Report
It's been a little over a month since the reports that a Phillies TV deal was likely to be signed within the next 30 days. Those thirty days have come and gone, and there is no new Comcast-Phillies partnership to announce.
I pinged Howard Megdal, the source of the original 30-day window rumor, as to whether he had any updated news on the topic.
@Eric_Lindros Nothing new that I've heard- could just be question of announcement timing.— Howard Megdal (@howardmegdal) November 24, 2013
That's a possibility. Or they could have hit a snag in negotiations, or any of dozens of other possible scenarios.
Reading the tea leaves here for a moment, it doesn't much look like the Phillies expect to be flush with cash any time soon, judging from their free agent acquisitions (or the lack thereof), the types of players they've been rumored to be coveting, and the comments Ruben has made to the media over the past few weeks. On the other hand, a deal might be imminent and the Phillies just prefer to not spend it on free agents this year, or could they surprise everyone and end up submitting a massive bit for Masahiro Tanaka, if the NPB-MLB posting system is settled this off-season.
While new information on the Phillies TV deal is scant, the Houston Astros television deal has been in the news lately. I've previously mentioned that the Astros situation is one that bears watching as a sort of canary in the television rights fee coal mine. CSN Houston has not been able to get into enough homes in the Houston area to be able to pay the Astros their agreed upon annual fee of $80 million dollars, and so in September filed for bankruptcy protection.
This week new Astros owner Jim Crane sued previous Astros owner Drayton McClane alleging fraud and negligent misrepresentation of the Houston Astros as it pertains to the Crane's purchase of the Astros. The Crawfish Boxes has an excellent run down of the allegations, and responses by McClain and Comcast (this series of comments explain some of the details of the deal). Crane is basically saying the deal McClane entered into with CSN Houston prior to his selling the club was designed specifically to inflate the sale price of the team by misrepresenting the value of the TV rights agreement, and was not indicative of a TV deal that was workable. Wendy Thurm has a synopsis of the Astros/CSN Houston legal issues up at FanGraphs.
The implications of these lawsuits for the Phillies are hard to assess. If the new Comcast-Phillies deal is all but done, as Megdal's original reporting indicates, then they probably have very little to do with any negotiation. If that is not the case, it's still not clear that the Houston situation will have much bearing on the Phillies. If Crane's allegations are true the current CSN Houston deal was never constructed to be a working TV rights deal, and if one were to rework that deal to make it viable it would likely have to include lower annual payments to the Astros along with CSN Houston charging lower carriage fees to the local Houston-area broadcasters. Those lower payments would then have to be reworked into estimates like the one I provided in October, but ultimately it doesn't have a significant effect on the result. The Houston CSN mess could well be a one-off situation, with little import on the rest of the league. The failure of their regional sports network does necessarily mean other regional sports networks are also doomed to the same fate.
The new information that has been made public in these lawsuits does give me a little more confidence that the RSN landscape isn't yet collapsing, and assuages my fears of the "bursting TV bubble" a little bit. Things like this and this still concern me over the longer term, but they're certainly not Phillies-specific problems.