Mariners purchase majority stake in TV network

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.”