MLB Creates Economic Reform Committee amid Concerns About Broadcast Rights

Tyler Conway@@jtylerconwayFeatured Columnist IVFebruary 19, 2023

PHOENIX, AZ - FEBRUARY 15: Major League Baseball Commissioner Robert D. Manfred Jr. speaks to the media during the Spring Training Cactus League Media Day at Arizona Biltmore on Wednesday, February 15, 2023 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Daniel Shirey/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
Daniel Shirey/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Major League Baseball has launched an "economic reform committee" to discuss ways the game's economic structure could improve amid the New York Mets' recent spending splurge under new owner Steve Cohen and the ongoing concerns related to the pending bankruptcy of Bally Sports.

"It came out of a recognition of a couple of issues — one new, one old — that were particularly acute for us," commissioner Rob Manfred said, per Evan Drelich of The Athletic. "The new one's the local media situation. I think that people see it as an opportunity to rethink the revenue side of the house a little bit, which has been hard in our sport. People entrenched in their local (media dynamics)."

Some MLB owners have reportedly grown unhappy with the game's financial structure a year after reaching a new collective bargaining agreement with players after last winter's lockout.

The new CBA has four years remaining, so it's unlikely ownership will be able to make many major changes in terms of revenue splits and other baseball matters for the time being. That said, owners could explore other avenues of making changes within their own ranks.

Diamond Sports Group, which owns 19 Bally Sports channels, is preparing for a bankruptcy filing. Fourteen of those channels broadcast MLB games.

Manfred said MLB could shift those games to streaming to distribute games impacted by the bankruptcy.

"We got to find a new model," Manfred said. "Maybe we ought to be driving the boat, what that model looks like. So, that's the new challenge."

Regardless, the network's inability to pay rights fees to MLB teams will impact their revenue and potentially create issues with small-market franchises that are already cash-strapped in comparison to big-market teams like the New York Mets and Yankees.