Several news outlets reported on Tuesday that the Yankees will ink a new contract with CBS Radio worth $15 million to 20 million per year. As part of the deal, the Yankees’ radio broadcasts will move from one CBS Radio-owned New York station to another. Starting in 2014, Yankees games will be heard on WFAN (660 AM), the sports-only radio station that’s been home to the Mets since 1987. The Mets are in discussions with several radio broadcasters and expect to announce a new radio home in the next six weeks.
Radio broadcast rights in the $15 million to $20 million range are a rarity in MLB. The Red Sox are the only other team that reportedly rakes in close to $20 million per year from its radio broadcaster, WEEI (93.7 FM). It was big news when the Red Sox signed that 10-year/$200 million deal in 2006, to cover the 2007 through 2016 seasons. At the time, WCBS paid the Yankees only $10 million a year for the right to broadcast its games.
But the Red Sox deal doesn’t appear to have led to an escalation in radio rights fees, the way the Rangers’ multi-billion dollar contract with Fox Sports Southwest did on the TV side. Indeed, the Yankees’ radio revenue jumped from from $10 million in 2006 to just $14 million this season.
Information on radio revenue generated by the other 28 MLB teams is hard to come by. There’s just not very much publicly reported. Here’s what we do know. Three teams broadcast their games on radio stations controlled by the team’s owner. The Blue Jays broadcast on SportsNet 590; both are owned by Rogers Communications. Twins games can be heard on KTWN (96.3 FM); both are owned by the Pohlad family. And Angels’ owner Arte Moreno owns KLAA (830 AM), which carries Angels games in southern California.
The Rangers and Braves are in a partnership, of sorts, with their respective radio stations. Texas signed a 4-year deal with KESN (103.3 FM) before the 2011 season. The Rangers and the station each sell commercial time and keep the ensuing revenue, with the Rangers controlling most of the advertising slots. The Braves have a similar arrangement with Dickey Broadcasting Company, which owns WCNN (680 AM). Starting in 2010, the Braves took primary responsibility for selling advertising during the game, and the pre-game and post-game shows. The team’s contract with Dickey Broadcasting expires after the 2014 season.
The Mariners signed a 5-year deal with KIRO (710 AM) before the 2012 season. And while we don’t know the financial terms of that deal, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported in 2008 that the deal coverng the 2009 through 2011 seasons would pay the Mariners $5.5 million a year. It’s fair to assume that the current deal is somewhere in the same range.
That leaves 21 teams for which we have limited or no information on the radio contracts. As noted, the Mets are negotiating a new deal. The Orioles are, too, as their contract with WBAL (1090 AM) expires at the end of this season. The White Sox, Royals, Indians, A’s, Astros, Phillies, Nationals, Reds, Cardinals, Pirates, Brewers, Cubs, Dodgers, Giants, and Padres are in the middle of multi-year deals, but financial terms are unknown. Even less is known about the radio rights of the Rays, Tigers, Marlins, Diamondbacks, and Rockies.
We can get some sense of each team’s bargaining power on radio rights by looking at ratings: how many people, on average, tune into each game? Sports Business Daily provided some numbers last year, covering the 2010, 2011 and 2012 seasons. The Yankees topped the list in 2012 with an average radio audience of 297,200, but that figure represented a steep decline from 2010, when 448,100 fans tuned in. The Mets held second place in 2010 with an average radio audience of 290,600. That dropped to 209,100 by 2012, putting the Mets behind the Yankees and the Giants (216,200). Rounding out the top ten last season were the Tigers, Phillies, Cubs, White Sox, Mariners, Cardinals and Reds.
But the numbers look different when the focus is on men, ages 25-64. Last season, the Reds grabbed 26.3% of that key demographic for its radio broadcasts. The Tigers were second at 25.9% with the Brewers third at 20.9%. The Pirates, Cardinals, Phillies, Giants, Indians, Red Sox, and Mariners complete the top ten.
The Yankees don’t need to attract 20% or even 10% of men aged 25 to 64 in their broadcast area to justify a $15 million to $20 million per season because New York City is the top radio market in the country with nearly 16 million listeners.