The Tampa Bay Rays have long been plagued by one of the lowest-revenue television deals in baseball, offering the team somewhere around $25-35 million per season. That deal was rumored to expire in 2018 or sooner, but no news broke on a new contract.
The Sports Business Journal reports the Rays are close to a 15-year extension with Fox Sports regional Sun Sports network that will pay on average $82 million per year.
The Rays are entering the final year of their current deal on Fox Sports Sun. The team is due to receive close to $35 million this season, the last one under that deal, sources said.
Fox’s payout is expected to increase to around $50 million in 2019 under the new contract. Over the 15-year life of the deal, which would run through the 2033 season, Fox would pay, on average, around $82 million per year, sources said.
Complicating matters is the fact that 21st Century Fox is selling the Fox Sports RSN group to Disney as part of a $52.4 billion deal that includes the company’s entertainment assets.
Negotiating a new television contract is a significant step toward the Rays affording their desired new stadium in Ybor City and could have payroll implications for the product on the major league field as well.
Despite poor stadium attendance, the Rays regularly rank in the top half of baseball in television ratings (according to Neilsen and Forbes), and generally field an entertaining team.
Recent analysis from J.T. Morgan also shows that the Rays are not as cheap as their reputation would indicate, showing the Rays spend 56.2% of their revenue on their players, which is nearly identical to the MLB average. Increasing the Rays payroll requires more revenue, and this new television deal is a step in the right direction.