12/19/2014

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Sports

Mariners purchase majority stake in TV network

Mariners purchase majority stake in TV network
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SEATTLE (AP) - Instead of starting their own regional sports network outright, the Seattle Mariners went for an option they hope will produce favorable financial results while not facing the headache of getting their product on the air.

The Mariners and DIRECTV Sports Networks announced Tuesday a partnership in a new regional sports network where the franchise will be the majority stakeholder in the operation. The deal will run through the conclusion of the 2030 baseball season with DIRECTV Sports Networks taking a minority position but overseeing the daily management of the network.

Mariners vice president of business operations Bob Aylward said negotiations with DIRECTV Sports Networks first started in 2010. Much of the time early in the conversations was learning how television deals were changing the financial landscape around baseball. No terms of the deal were released by either side, but Aylward stressed the Mariners' new deal makes them competitive with the rest of the AL West.

"Since these conversations started in 2010 we've learned a lot about the TV industry and regional sports networks," Aylward said. "... Today's news is great for the Mariners, ROOT Sports and for the sports fans in the Northwest. ... It provides resources for us to remain competitive with teams in our division and throughout baseball."

The Mariners will continue to operate the network under the ROOT Sports brand and there are no changes to distribution. They will continue to show other pro, college and high school sports programing. Seattle believes it is maximizing the value of its television rights by becoming the majority partner and putting itself in an advantageous position should other pro sports organizations in the Northwest seek regional TV deals.

There had been speculation that if the sale and relocation of the Sacramento Kings to Seattle is approved by the NBA and the SuperSonics return, that prospective owner Chris Hansen may look to start his own network. The Mariners sounded more than willing to partner on TV deals should that happen.

"Now it's going to be in our interest to want more professional sports teams in Seattle," Aylward said.

The Mariners' new deal was finalized two years before they could re-negotiate their current television contract. Aylward believed Seattle was not bypassing a more lucrative deal in the future by finalizing this transaction now rather than seeing what negotiations could lead to in the future.

"We're not in the habit of leaving dollars on the table, which does not mean we're not loyal to our friends," Aylward said. "I think we have tried to accomplish both of these things. It's important not to lose sight of the distribution that ROOT already has up. ... There are many, many factors that go into these decisions. Did we leave money on the table? I don't think so."
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