08 May 2008

Get a cable sports network for (almost) free

Come 2010 or shortly thereafter, the A's may find themselves in a very good situation, and they won't need to do anything to make it happen.

All of the local (non-NFL) teams other than the Giants are due to have their current agreements with Comcast SportsNet Bay Area (formerly FSNBA) expire around the end of the decade. That will put the Sharks, Warriors, and A's in situations that could allow for partnerships or competition. The natural awkwardness of having the Sharks and Warriors on the same network will likely end. Therefore, one will probably stay with CSNBA and one will leave. Where does that leave the A's?

An opportunity may arise that could fit perfectly for the A's. It would be a different channel, one that already exists pretty much everywhere in Northern California. That channel is...

Comcast SportsNet West

What is this channel, you ask? It's the home of the Sacramento Kings. As you can see from the table below, its availability is pretty much on par with CSNBA (except for the Bay Area, where it's on digital cable only).

CSNW's ownership situation is similar to that of CSNBA in that the marquee team (Kings as opposed to Giants) owns a share of the network. It would be easy for the A's to talk to both the Kings and Comcast about carriage on CSNW, which could make for a more comprehensive broadcast rights deal that ensures more games throughout the region. They could even severely limit over-the-air broadcasts (TV36) more than their current deal and move the vast majority of games to CSNW. That would prove beneficial to CSNW since they'd get a greater amount of programming (outside of the Kings' season it's sparse to say the least).

The future of the Kings, unfortunately, is uncertain. While the Maloof brothers have publicly stated that they want to work out a deal in Sacramento and have reportedly been talking privately with Sacramento officials about a new arena deal, it's definitely an uphill battle - especially with a mayor's race this year including former Suns and Cal point guard Kevin Johnson. The Maloofs don't appear to be willing to privately finance much of a new arena, and they didn't support the two 2006 ballot initiatives to publicly finance an arena on the railyards near downtown.

Meanwhile, last August Harrah's and AEG announced a plan to build a 20,000-seat arena just east of the Vegas Strip, behind Paris and Bally's. The arena will be built on-spec, in other words it doesn't have a marquee tenant. AEG and Harrah's say that they should be able to fill up the venue with numerous acts, but they are aiming for either a basketball or hockey team to call it home 41+ times a year starting in 2010. AEG already has another built-on-spec arena under its management, Sprint Center in Kansas City.

Both David Stern and Gary Bettman have been actively working on moving or adding a team to the Las Vegas market. Stern's done a good job putting the Tim Donaghy scandal to bed, and Vegas mayor Oscar Goodman may prefer the NBA over the NHL due to its higher profile (money, ratings). So while the Maloofs say the right things, an arena is going to rise that fits their needs (that they don't have to finance) and allows them to stop using the corporate jet to attend games in Cowtown.

Should the Kings leave for Vegas, they would have to divest themselves of CSNW. Who would be in a great position to step into the Kings' ownership stake? The A's, of course. That would put the A's in the position they've wanted for so long: their own network with few startup costs and no need to jostle for position with the Giants and the other Bay Area teams. They can create further tie-ins with the Rivercats and their broadcasts while fostering growth throughout all of NorCal. And they could create a partnership with or bid for broadcast rights from either the Warriors (who are showing signs of wanting to leave CSNBA) or the Sharks (who could also benefit from some elbow room).

Now I know what you're asking. First, wouldn't the Kings leaving be awful? Of course it would. The team has been the soul of the state capital for over two decades. ARCO Arena is a charming and intimate setting. It's also woefully outdated and was built on the cheap. If Stern and the owners are willing to allow the Sonics to be ripped out of the Seattle community, don't think they won't hesitate to do the same to a city whose team has only been present half as long. Second, what about the A's moving to Sacramento? I've already given plenty of reasons why that won't work, the least of which is: If Sacramento can't figure out a way to share the burden on a new Kings arena, how would they get it done on a larger and more expensive baseball stadium (sorry, expanding Raley Field won't cut it in the long run).

What we have right now is a waiting game. The A's are waiting out the EIR process in Fremont. They're waiting out the end of their CSNBA contract to make a move on their own. The NBA and the Maloofs are waiting out this new arena in Sin City and political dealings in Sacramento to determine the Kings' fate. AEG and Harrah's are waiting out two leagues and various teams to see if one will fill their new arena. None of this can be determined right away. Come 2010, expect to see these parties move quickly.

Update 5/10: Cal Expo and the NBA have announced a plan to build a new arena for the Kings on the Expo Fairgrounds, which would be financed by proceeds coming from the development of the Fairgrounds area. On the surface, the deal appears to be structured similar to what the Tampa Bay Rays are planning with the Tropicana Field site. On May 21, the Expo board will decide whether or not to move forward with the plan. While I like the fact that David Stern, who took over from the Maloofs in negotiating with Cal Expo, timing appears to be rather late considering the state of the economy - and especially the real estate market in Santa Clara. There's plenty of time to figure out how long it will take and the contingencies they can build in. It's definitely a more difficult plan to pull off than Cisco Field and the baseball village, but if there's one person in sports I wouldn't bet against, it's David Stern.


Jeffrey said...

Three main revenue streams... Ballpark, Corporate SPonorships and Media... by 2012 the A's will be significantly better in all 3.

If only we can get them to add a radio station to the media mix.

Zonis said...

All of Northern California, broadcasts for nearly every game, added media revenue...

Go for it Lew!

But Jeff is right, the A's also need to get a radio station. The question is if Radio will continue to be worth going after in the long term, or is going with Satalite and Streaming Internet Radio a better way to go? For all we know, in a decade conventional radio might be completly obsolete and all cars will be fitted with XM or Sirius radio systems.

(It would def occur if Sirius and XM made it non-subscriber, and built into every car)

tyrxzr said...

Wishful thinking.

Wolf and Fisher trade in real estate and clothing. They know nothing about media. They don't own a shred of media. They buy media, when necessary, via someone they hire to buy it for them.

Media is a hard sell, a lousy sell and they are not buying. Nor will they be buying - unless they need to sell condos or cargo pants.

You don't buy a cow when you need a quart of milk.

These dudes research how much money you can save via Coffeemate.

Marine Layer said...

There's a lot of truth there. Buying a radio or TV station requires enormous capital even in the industry's depressed state. I haven't pushed the idea for quite a while.

In fact, I think it's likely that if/when the A's move to another network, they may exchange a share of the team for a share of the station. There are probably ways to make that kind of exchange more beneficial for both parties from a tax perspective.

Anonymous said...

David Stern has said many many times he would NOT allow an NBA team in Las Vegas.

Marine Layer said...

Have you been living under a rock? The NBA had the All Star Game in Vegas in part to gauge the city's moneymaking capacity.

Read for more details.

BleacherDave said...

Had dinner last night with a major player in Oakland's downtown/Uptown development...we talked a lot about how it still could be possible that the A's could still wind up in Oakland after all, but ironically, it could be that the economy helps Oakland here.

Every major construction development is on hold right now; not just in Oakland, but in SF, even, yes, Las Vegas!! (Read economic downturn has derailed Donald Trump's condo/hotel project, the NJ Nets proposed arena/building plan in Brooklyn is off and owner Bruce Ratner is trying to sell his majority portion of the team.

Both the Jets/Giants stadium is in flux.

Sacramento will NOT and cannot build a downtown arena for the Kings. (An aside, the Maloofs are looking at Vegas because Sacramento appears out)

Not only is the cost of labor shooting up, but because of the recession, money is tight and everything is going up, up, and up...add on the lengthy E.I.R. reports, which in Calif. takes years in a GOOD economy.

Say the perfect scenario: the A's stadium breaks ground in 2010? By the time it's built, Lew Wolfe would be 83. And that's the best case scenario.

I still think the most viable, most realistic home for the A's, assuming they aren't sold and moved outside the Bay Area, is the North parking lot in the existing Coliseum area. The land is FREE, the infrastructure is already in place, the stadium could be built in a year and a half---and the $$ would be considerably less than any alternatives.

The temporary loss of parking revenue for the Raiders and Warriors could be offset by the A's paying them a negotiated fee...after all, a baseball-only facility helps not only the A's, but the Raiders too; the existing stadium could be ammended to a state-of-the-art football venue it essentially is, plus, the ridiculous dirt infield would be gone during pre-season and early-season games; an annoyance not only to the A's, but the Raiders too.

Obviously, this makes too much sense, so inevitably it probably won't happen, but if you were to write about it, I think it would at least get the ball rolling from a PR standpoint, that baseball in Oakland and the Eastbay is much more viable than some traffic-infested, infrastructure mess in Fremont which has hurdle after hurdle written all over it.

We need to ACT now.

Your thoughts? (Please, if you care enough, pass this e-mail to your friends and associates)

Rich Lieberman/"Big Vinny" E-Mail

Zonis said...

oDave, I don't understand how that would work.

First off, you say that the land in the Oakland Parking lot is free, but the Land in Fremont is already purchased, so even if that was true, it would be a wash.

And not to mention that the A's have already invested a lot of money into the Fremont project already.

Also, if an EIR will take such a long time, and its already underway in Fremont, it would take even longer in Oakland. Everything that would even get to the EIR, then the EIR itself, would make the Coliseum Parking Lot Project finish at least 2 years after whenever the Fremont Plan would finish. And by then, the Raiders will probably be gone anyways.

Also, you acknowledge that we're in a recession, yet you say it would be no problem to build the park in the Parking Lot in Oakland. Yet, how do you pay for it? If the A's did build it in Oakland, that means the Fremont plan must be scrapped in its entirity, since the Ballpark is what the Fremont City Council is approving this on: No Park, No Development, No Money to build the Stadium.

And you are forgetting part of the reasons why the A's are going to Fremont and out of Oakland in the first place.

In Fremont, the A's will be able to take the San Jose name and Silicon Valley corperate sponsors w/o having to pay the Giants. They will build themselves a nice safe neighborhood around the Stadium as well. A place that people will want to go to even when there is not a game on.

But right now, who in their right mind would go to the Coliseum area if there wasn't a going on, or they didn't have to dash to catch a plane?

Yeah, Oakland has the whole history thing, but since there arn't any butts in the stands even when the team is winning games, I don't think that history alone is going to help. Moving down to Fremont has a good chance of raising attendance a lot, and at the very least, it sure as hell can't get lower.

anon-a-mouse said...

He's playing fast and loose with some of the facts there (every major project is not on hold, I can name several in SJ and SF alone that are still moving ahead and hundreds more across the country). But I admire his spirit. I thought the Coliseum parking lot was a great place way back when. I even thought they could squeeze a village concept in there between BART and the new stadium, although not the housing to pay for all of it. Zonis did a great job of explaining why this is all a pipe dream.

bbison said...

The Jets/Giants stadium in flux?

Looks like full speed ahead to me! This isn't half-assed San Diego mothballing Petco for a year, it's 2 of the biggest teams in the NFL.

Tony D. said...

Hey Mouse!
You admire BD's pro-Oakland "spirit," yet deride my pro-San Jose "spirit" as the "same tired story?" I guess for some it's ok to be pro-Oakland and not pro-San Jose. Oh well, I guess hypocrisy is a good thing every now and then. Hey, even Zonis is suggesting the A's in Fremont COULD be named "San Jose." So it's not just me! By the way, I also admire BD's spirit. I was all for the A's building a ballpark at the old Uptown location or even at Jack London Square (if that were ever possible). Was not so much in favor of the Coliseum parking lot. One thing Oakland will always have over San Jose...IT'S FREE! (from G's T-rights that is).

anon-a-mouse said...

Maybe if Dave gave the impression he cried himself to sleep over it every night like you do, I would have a different opinion. Meanwhile, I see your reading skills haven't improved. Now shoo, fly.

Tony D. said...

You know Rat, I've actually heard more "crying" from the pro-Oakland, OAFC crowd than from myself, but I guess it would be to inconvenient for you to acknowledge that fact. Also, why don't you try to make a mature, My Space-less post rather than continue these constant childish attacks: let's hear your opinion on the Niners/Brisbane, the A's future cable network, or any of the other subjects ML has brought up here (or will that make your head hurt to much?).

anon-a-mouse said...

You really aren't very bright are you? Who called out whom in this thread? Who called whom a hypocrite? You continually attack me and when I return the favor, you act like the innocent victim. A truly odd personality type you have there.

I've contributed a lot to this blog over the years. The next interesting, insightful, or original thought you post here will be your first.