MLB’s Cardinals strike lucrative new deal with Fox Sports Midwest

Major League Baseball franchise the St. Louis Cardinals have signed a new 15-year deal with long-term local television rights partner, regional sports network Fox Sports Midwest, in an agreement reportedly worth more than $1bn (€907m).

The new partnership will begin in 2018 and run until the 2032 MLB season. Fox Sports Midwest and the Cardinals are currently in the 22nd season of their television partnership – the fifth season in which Fox Sports Midwest has served as the exclusive local television home of the team. Under the new agreement, Fox Sports Midwest will continue to produce all locally-available Cardinals regular-season games.

Cardinals’ broadcasts on Fox Sports Midwest generated the highest local market ratings in Major League Baseball in 2014, the 15th straight year in which the Cardinals ranked in MLB's top three in local television ratings.

Cardinals chairman Bill DeWitt, Jr said: “This agreement will help us remain competitive in all areas of talent acquisition, from the amateur draft and international market to the Major League payroll. It also enables continued investment by the Cardinals in Busch Stadium, Ballpark Village, and other strategic initiatives.”

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch newspaper said the agreement is new and not an extension of the current deal, which expires after the 2017 season. Financial terms were not disclosed, but the Post-Dispatch said that while the current deal is set to escalate to $35m in its final year the new agreement is expected to start at closer to $55m in 2018 and climb with inflation each year.

The newspaper said the total for the rights fee alone could surpass $1bn, and that does not include a signing bonus or additional revenue the Cardinals will get from a minority stake in Fox Sports Midwest.

“The Cardinals are one of the crown jewels in sports,” Jack Donovan, general manager and senior vice-president of Fox Sports Midwest, said. “Their history. Their success. Their popularity. They have a broad footprint. The NFL seems to get a lot of applause for high ratings, and NFL teams do well. But at the end of the day it’s 16 games. When you’re doing really big ratings for 162 games, math dictates the Cardinals are getting some of the largest ratings in sports.”