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Phillies sign long-term TV contract with Comcast; Terms Unknown

The Phillies and Comcast have agreed to a long-term contract to broadcast Phillies games; games will no longer air on PHL-17.

Come on Monty, Daddy needs a new pair of starters!
Come on Monty, Daddy needs a new pair of starters!

The new television contract wait ended last night as the Phillies and Comcast announced that they have come to terms on a deal to televise Phillies games for the next two decades. According to multiple sources the team has reached an agreement with Comcast to carry Phillies games for "at least" the next 20 years. Some sources say 20 years, others are saying 25. The financial terms are as yet undisclosed, other than sources saying it's "massive" and worth "billions."

The official statement released by Comcast's communications department is quite vague, disclosing only that the partnership is a "long-term" deal and that details on a broadcast schedule for 2014 should be released shortly. Expect further details of the deal to leak out over the coming months.

The timing of the announcement is interesting if you care to read the tea leaves here. In late-October we reported on the initial rumor that the Phillies had finalized a new television deal which was to be announced within the following thirty days.  After that 30-day window had closed I contacted Howard Megdal, who was the original source of these rumors, as to whether he had heard any news on the delay, to which he responded:

If you're the sort that likes to read tea leaves and look for reasons why something happened as it did, you might conclude that waiting until after the winter holiday season allows both parties to have the full complement of public relations and communications staff on hand to handle the subsequent media requests, but also allowed the Phillies to fill all of their open roster spots on the cheap prior to the announcement of this mega-deal. I'd imagine the fan reaction to the Byrd and Hernandez signings would have been less torpor and more lividity had they been announced shortly after the club came into a revenue windfall. Or perhaps they were just waiting for all the t's to be crossed and I's dotted by the various legal departments involved.

It certainly seems like, at least for 2014, the Phillies don't plan on increasing their payroll in accordance with their projected increase in future revenues, which is unprecedented behavior for this team dating back to the signing of Jim Thome in December of 2002, a season before Citizens Bank Park opened.

What we know about the new deal:

  • It's slated to start after the current contract expires at the end of the 2015 season, and run for the following 20+ years.
  • Starting this season, Phillies games will no longer be aired on PHL-17. All games will be carried on the NBCUniversal - Comcast family of networks. Some games will apparently be carried by NBC10. Basically, if the game isn't on Fox or ESPN it will be on a NBC Universal Comcast channel.
  • It's supposedly "massive," and "along the lines of" television rights deals signed by other teams in recent years.

What we don't know:

  • The actual terms of the contract. We don't know if the Phillies will have an equity stake in CSNSportsnet (again). We don't know the annual fee Comcast has agreed to pay the Phillies. We don't know whether the Phillies will retain their unique position in which they control the advertising and advertising revenue during games.
  • Whether future Phillies telecasts will be offered to satellite cable providers. This has been a sore spot for cable customers for years. The Phillies would clearly prefer to be available to as many Delaware Valley viewers as possible, but Comcast, as a cable carrier, has an incentive to try to prevent it.
  • How this deal will affect the broadcast team, although significant changes seem unlikely.

If the deal is in line with other recent deals, here are some comparable television contracts-either by year signed or market size-reproduced from our initial report back in October:






LA Dodgers

SportsNet LA




Texas Rangers

Fox Sports SW




LA Angels

Fox Sports W




Seattle Mariners

Root Northwest




NY Yankees

YES Network




Houston Astros

CSN Houston




NY Mets










Sources linked in superscripts: (1) Wendy Thurm, Fangraphs; (2) Maury Brown, The Biz of Baseball; (3) Howard Megdal, Twitter & Wendy Thrum, Fangraphs

(Fun useless fact: Both deals signed in 2013, Seattle and Los Angeles, pay those teams approximately $60.00 per market member. If Comcast were to pay the Phillies similarly the annual payout would be about $177,000,000)

One final observation. In Matt Gelb's article, he concludes with some statements David Montgomery made when asked about the television contract late last year:

The Phillies were never a threat to pursue another carrier or create a bidding war.

"It's an opportunity," Montgomery said in September. "The only thing I will caution is, compared to others, we've had a nice deal. You see some situations where clubs have had a substandard deal. We've enjoyed a very solid relationship with Comcast ever since we were a part of forming Comcast SportsNet in 1996."

That strikes me as an odd thing to say. I'm not sure why he would "caution" people, explaining the decent deal the Phillies had been working under. That prior deal should have little bearing on the future deal, when the market for TV rights has been reset at a significantly higher level. I'm not sure what, if anything, it means for the terms of this new deal, but that statement just didn't make much sense to me.

Stay tuned to TGP for further analysis and future details as they emerge.