Cleveland makes up a little ground in TV revenue gap


Sticking out like a sore thumb in the list of MLB teams TV distributors, against a backdrop of Comcast and Fox regional affiliates, was the Cleveland Indians and their in-family agreement with Sports Time Ohio. The contract netted the Cleveland Indians around $30 million annually–relatively destitute in terms of the league, but middle-class in the AL Central, whereas the White Sox earn easily over $50 million.

Of course, being independent meant the Indians still had the chance to make some extra cash by selling out to one of the powerhouse distributors, and they did just that–some time ago it appears–but announcing it Friday. The rights to Cleveland Indians broadcasts are being sold back to Fox Sports, where they were found before 2006, for a price that will see (according to Hardball Talk) the franchise receive $10 million more annually than they do now.

That’s significant, since a $40 million annual fee would bring the Indians into the TV revenue territory of the Detroit Tigers, and their aggressive courtship of Nick Swisher showed that there is some larger organizational intent to become more loose with the pocketbooks and pursue marquee free agents. The deal takes effect in 2014, and will return to the Indians to the channel that nearly every other Ohio sporting event of significance is on, and has distribution in six states. That can’t hurt.

But it’s not world-changing, or even enough to greatly alter the Indians’ station in the division. Teams aren’t dependent entirely on attendance revenue, but not cracking the top 20 in a decade surely hasn’t helped an ownership group that has not demonstrated exceptionally independently deep pockets any time recently.

Follow James Fegan on Twitter @JRFegan