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Rays Tales: New TV deal “is going to happen” but bucks won’t be as big

Downturn in industry had an impact, uncertainty over networks sale is also an issue.
Rays pitchers Tyler Glasnow and Ryne Stanek had a good time at Saturday's Fan Fest. [TAYLIR IRVINE | Times]
Published Feb. 10
Updated Feb. 10

ST. PETERSBURG – Nothing’s official yet and it’s not clear when it will be, but principal owner Stuart Sternberg confirmed the Rays are finally set to sign a long-awaited new local TV deal.

That’s good news because it means an increase in revenues from the $30 million they got in 2018 in the final year of their previous deal, which was among the worst in the majors.

But it’s not nearly as much as the Rays had once hoped, given a sports industry-wide drop in rights fees as a fallout from cord-cutting and other issues, or that some of their competitors got previously.

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And it’s “well, well, well under” the $82 million annual average over 15 years that was reported last spring by Sports Business Daily, Sternberg said, declining now, and likely ever, to reveal what the exact number is, or how much it could boost payroll or help pay for a new stadium.

“It’s going to be an increase of where we are,’’ Sternberg said, estimating the new deal would rank about 20th in the majors. “Much of the reason we’ve spent all that we have is because we knew we had some more revenue (coming) off of TV. Unfortunately it’s going to fall reasonably short of what we anticipated four years ago.’’

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Completion of the deal is complicated by the ongoing sale of Fox regional sports networks, such as Fox Sports Sun, as fallout from Disney’s acquisition of 21st Century Fox’s entertainment assets. Adding to the oddness, Major League Baseball is one of the potential buyers.

“There still things in flux,’’ Sternberg said. “It’s going to happen. There’s a structure of a deal. But there’s still just too much (unsettled). … We don’t know who’s going to own the thing.’’

The Rays and Fox worked out what basically is a placeholder deal for this season, so you’ll have Dewayne and BA yucking it up like usual, with hopes the new pact will be executed sometime in 2019. But the sale uncertainly makes it tough to finalize the terms, possibly even the length of the deal, with the team wanting at least 15 years. Another factor could be the Rays’ unsettled stadium situation, given at least the potential for relocating within the length of the deal.

Commissioner Rob Manfred suggested the new TV deal could help the effort to get a new stadium built in the area. “It’s an improvement in their revenue stream and that’s always a positive,’’ Manfred said. “And I also think it’s reflective of the fact that the Tampa region is a major-league market and we ought to be able to find a way, with the help of the local officials, to make it work there.’’

Rays rumblings

Baseball Prospectus’ annual PECOTA projections peg the Rays for 86 wins and the second AL wild-card, though only a 12-9, 3.24 season for Cy Young award winner Blake Snell. … A fifth date, April 20, is being added for wearing the Devil Rays throwback uniforms. … Initial reaction to the proposed rule change requiring pitchers to face a minimum of three batters is that if anything it would help the Rays, given they prioritize pitchers who can faced right- and lefthanded hitters and work more than one inning. … Installation of the Trop’s third Shaw Sports turf in three years starts after a Feb. 22-24 gymnastics meet. … With the Rays controlling Al Lang Stadium through their ownership of the Rowdies, a couple mounds were re-built to give pitchers the option of working out there to prep for hot weather road trips. … The Rays are still deciding whether to put tarps over the now unused seats in the closed upper deck. … Tommy Pham was named to’s all-underrated team for 2019, although as the centerfielder. … The New York-based Steiner Sports memorabilia company sold, and claimed to sell out of, 52 balls signed by Yankees pitcher C.C. Sabathia with the phrase “That’s for you b----” that he yelled into the Rays dugout after a retaliatory pitch that hit Jesus Sucre in the Sept. 27 game. … Playing off the classic scene in the Bull Durham movie, the Rays Triple-A Durham Bulls team will re-brand for their June 14 game as the Lollygaggers. Added bonus, the special jerseys include words from the script. … Snell is on the cover of the pocket schedules. … Sounds like the new LED stadium lights, that can be quickly turned on and off, will be an element in walkoff celebrations.


  1. Tampa Bay Rays' Tommy Pham, right, connects for a double in front of Houston Astros catcher Robinson Chirinos, left, during a baseball game Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2019, in Houston. (AP Photo/Michael Wyke) MICHAEL WYKE  |  AP
    Outfielder is dealing with right hand and elbow injuries that have limited his production: :"It’s frustrating. I’ve ne
  2. Picturesque Dodger Stadium, where Rays take on Dodgers tonight. MARC TOPKIN  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Rays visiting NL best in a YouTube only game, third visit to Dodger Stadium in seven years after none in first 15.
  3. Blake Snell on his return: “I think if (we were) 20 games out I probably wouldn’t pitch the rest of the season, honestly." CARLOS OSORIO  |  AP
    With the team in the playoff hunt, Snell’s return from injury is expedited, but Tampa Bay still expects quality innings.
  4. Rays sensation Austin Meadows, right, and teammate Willy Adames will have plenty to celebrate if the Rays can make ground in the wild-card race this week. ALLIE GOULDING  |  Times
    The multi-step process starts with registering online for a “postseason ticket opportunity."
  5. Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Felipe Vazquez works against the Colorado Rockies in the ninth inning of a baseball game in Denver. Pirates All-Star closer Felipe Vazquez has been arrested on charges of pornography and soliciting a child. Vazquez was taken into custody Tuesday morning by Pennsylvania State Police on one count of computer pornography/solicitation of a child and one count of providing obscene material to minors. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File) DAVID ZALUBOWSKI  |  AP
    The girl was 13 when the relationship began, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement says.
  6. Blake Snell returns to the mound tonight in Los Angeles against the Dodgers. [AP photo]
    As part of an MLB package, select games are moved off traditional TV for viewing via mobile devices, smart TVs, laptops.
  7. The Rays' Travis d'Arnaud drives in three runs with a bases-loaded double during the sixth inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Angels. MARCIO JOSE SANCHEZ  |  AP
    Since the May trade for $100,000, d’Arnaud has been a key contributor to the Rays’ success on and off the field.
  8. Brendan McKay, shown here in July at the Trop as the Rays' DH against the Orioles, comes through with his first major-league hit on Sunday, Sept. 15, 2019, against the Angels. DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    After winning his June debut on the mound, the rookie gets his first hit Sunday. Also, Pagan as the savior, Meadows keeps streaking.
  9. The Angels' Andrelton Simmons beats the throw to Rays catcher Mike Zunino to score on a double by Albert Pujols during the first inning on Sunday, Sept. 15, 2019. ALEX GALLARDO  |  AP
    On the merits of resiliency, Yarbrough’s career-high workload, Pham’s adventurous albeit not costly trip around the bases.
  10. Rays shortstop Willy Adames battles a ground ball up the middle but can't come up with the single hit by the Angels' Kevan Smith during the third inning on Sunday, Sept. 15, 2019. ALEX GALLARDO  |  AP
    Angels 6, Rays 4: A rough outing by Ryan Yarbrough puts Tampa Bay down early, and a late rally wasn’t enough.