I love baseball, and I want it. All of it. Channeling my inner Veruca Salt, I demand that someone buys me MLB in its entirety. I want every team, every ballpark, every regional sports deal, even the doorstops in the MLB office building. Every. Single. Thing.
While I wait for someone to open their checkbook for me, I’ll start calculating the price tag. How much would it cost to completely buy out every MLB stakeholder?
The biggest expense will be the 30 teams. Early in 2018, Forbes published their annual estimate of franchise values. The Yankees topped the list at $4 billion; which is a full billion higher than the second place Dodgers. At the bottom of the list, the Rays were valued at $900 million. They were the only team appraised at less than $1 billion.
In total, the value of all 30 teams added up to $49.335 billion. However, nearly a year has gone by, and we must adjust for inflation. We can use total MLB revenue as a guide.
Revenue increased from $10 billion in 2017 to $10.3 billion in 2018, which is an increase of three percent. Assuming team values also inflated by three percent, the total value is now $50.815 billion.
That’s the bulk of the cost right there. Franchise values bake in any revenue and expenses individual teams may have. Obviously, that includes attendance and employee compensation (including players). There are also regional media deals, real estate assets (including stadiums), minor league affiliations, taxes and tax deductions, food and beverage contracts, and who knows what else. The point is, the values are all-inclusive for each team.
Having estimated the cost of all 30 teams, we must now find out the price of MLB itself. However, we need to know what you’re buying for me! What exactly is MLB? According to Bloomberg, here’s an overview of Major League Baseball Enterprises, Inc.
Major League Baseball Enterprises, Inc. operates baseball leagues in North America. It also offers television and radio contract negotiations, national sponsorship, and licensing programs, as well as the overall marketing of the industry. The company also provides photographs of players, stadiums, World Series games, all-star games, and other information related to baseball league. The company was founded in 1903 and is based in New York, New York.
It sounds like most of it is negotiation, marketing, and photography services. Remember when Rob Manfred blamed Mike Trout for not marketing himself better? Turns out, that really is Manfred’s job after all!
To return from digression, I suppose I really don’t care that much what MLB actually does. I want it anyway, so we’ll just add it to the bill.
Let’s start with some of those big contract negotiations. Recently, the U.S. Supreme Court legalized sports gambling by ruling that the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act was unconstitutional. This will be a major windfall for MLB.
Annual revenues for MLB & NBA may increase by $1.1 billion & $585 million, respectively, from widely available, legal, regulated sports betting, per a new Nielsen Sports study commissioned by @AmerGamingAssn. pic.twitter.com/pujNyXgaPj— Darren Heitner (@DarrenHeitner) October 18, 2018
From legalized gambling alone, MLB adds $1.1 billion in annual revenue in perpetuity, and that number will surely grow annually at a steady rate. This is a completely new revenue stream for baseball, so it’s pure profit because it’s not replacing some other deal.
As for more traditional forms of revenue, MLB also just re-upped with FOX Sports to provide TV coverage. The new deal will bring in $5.1 billion for MLB over seven years from 2022-28. The exact structure of the agreement is unknown, but it averages $829 million per year.
However, there’s a lot more baseball on TV than just FOX! MLB also has deals with ESPN and Tuner, which will be renegotiated soon. FOX got most of the good stuff, including the World Series, but it’s fair to assume combined annual revenue from new ESPN and Turner deals will be worth another $1 billion, roughly.
Additionally, MLB stands to gain $300 million from a streaming deal with DAZN.
Also from @MLB today: Owners approved a three-year, $300 million deal with @DAZN_USA. Streaming service will offer a weeknight show, like NFL RedZone, that bounces around between games #SportsBiz— Eben Novy-Williams (@novy_williams) November 15, 2018
While these deals are all highly lucrative, let’s not forget MLB’s own media platform: MLB Advanced Media (MLBAM) and it’s spin-out / partnership with Disney, BAMTech.
MLBAM remains the digital arm owned by the league, while most of BAMTech is owned by Disney, with the league responsible for some digital content including mlb.com. Mickey Mouse and company paid $1.58 billion in the summer of 2017 to increase their share from 33 percent to 75 percent. There are a few other minority owners as well, so MLB currently owns 15 percent of the spun-off entity.
Using the Disney deal as precedent for MLBAM and BAMTech’s value, each percent costs about $38 million. Therefore, MLB’s remaining stake is worth $564 million. However, that deal is a year and a half old, so inflation probably brings it up to $600 million.
Both MLBAM and BAMTech are assets, which is different from a revenue stream such as gambling or TV deals. Assets are worth what they are worth per market value. Revenue is an annual amount, so purchasing a continuous revenue stream is much more expensive. Making a blind guess, we’ll need to multiply each annual revenue stream by ten to set a purchase price.
There are also countless other sources of revenue for MLB Enterprises, Inc., but there are also expenses. No one outside their own accounting department knows how these balance out, so let’s just call it a wash even though we can probably assume there’s some profitability.
Time to total it up! The cost of MLB with all its assets, revenue sources, and expenses is roughly $29.886 billion. Add in the cost of all 30 teams and baseball will cost $80.701 billion.
Let’s write it out in full to get perspective: $80,700,764,285.71
Tell you what, I’ll chip in the $285.71. I just need one of you to pony up the $80,700,764,000.
As a reminder, in the lowest levels of the minors, players make $1,100 per month, and they’re paid for only a three month season. They play extended spring training from March through May for free. MLB successfully lobbied Congress to pass the Save America’s Pastime Act exempting minor leaguers from minimum wage laws. They even paid off some of the most unscrupulous lawmakers in Washington to do so.
Once again, the total purchase price of MLB and all 30 teams would be somewhere around $80,700,764,285.71.
Daniel R. Epstein is an elementary special education teacher and president of the Somerset County Education Association. In addition to BtBS, he writes at www.OffTheBenchBaseball.com. Tweets @depstein1983