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Brian Walton's news and commentary on the St. Louis Cardinals (TM) and their minor league system

The Rangers television contract through Cardinals lenses

How might the record deal for Texas Rangers television rights affect the St. Louis Cardinals?

On Monday, some astonishing news apparently leaked out.

After suffering through former owner Tom Hicks’ bankruptcy, the Texas Rangers have reportedly come to terms on a 20-year extension with FOX Sports Southwest for their local television rights. The amount is said to be a jaw-dropping $3 billion, or an average of $150 million per season.

In comparison, USA Today, who reported the initial news, also cited the $45 million per year that the Los Angeles Dodgers make in their contract with FOX Prime Ticket. The Biz of Baseball mentioned the 2007 deal between the Seattle Mariners and FOX Sports Northwest, a 12-year contract “well in excess of $400 million,” on average over $33 million per year.

Update: The Houston Chronicle states the new 20-year Rangers deal is for $1.6 billion, or an average of $80 million per season starting in 2015. The article also notes the Astros current contract with FOX Sports Houston is in the vicinity of $45 million per year.

Closer to home, I am unaware of the terms of the St. Louis Cardinals current agreement with FOX Sports Midwest. Contacted on Monday, an FSM spokesman would not comment, stating that information is not made public.

What we do know is that the current multi-year contract was extended prior to the 2007 season. That revised deal allowed FS Midwest to increase its number of Cardinals games from 110 to 130. After four years, they exercised a contract provision to take the final 20 games previously telecast via free television locally by KSDK NewsChannel 5. As a result, starting in 2011, FS Midwest will carry all 150 Cardinals games not broadcast nationally.

In terms of viewership during the first half of the 2010 season, FS Midwest was number one among the 29 US-based regional sports networks with an average rating of 9.70. That represented a 41.6 percent increase over 2009. Nielsen data was reported by SportsBusiness Journal, a subset of which follows.

MLB RSN Ratings
Rk Team RSN Avg. rating (chg) Avg. no. of HHs (chg) HH rank
1 St. Louis Cardinals FS Midwest 9.70 (+41.6%) 121,197 (+41.6%) 6
10 Seattle Mariners FS Northwest 4.83 (-15.6%) 88,582 (-14.9%) 11
23 Texas Rangers FS Southwest 2.66 (+1.9%) 67,681 (+4.1%) 16
24 Houston Astros FS Houston 2.46 (-19.6%) 52,237 (-18.9%) 20
26 Los Angeles Dodgers FS Prime Ticket 1.63 (-17.3%) 92,244 (-17.2%) 10

In terms of raw numbers of households (HH) tuning in, not surprisingly the New York teams are first and second, respectively. The Cardinals are sixth, ahead of all four clubs whose yearly financial terms are apparently known.

What that means for the future of Cardinals broadcast rights is unclear, but it would seem that if the team can remain competitive, it will be in a strong position whenever new talks are appropriate.

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Brian Walton

Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation and The Cardinal Nation Blog, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.
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