If an $8.35 billion television network begins broadcasting and no one can see it, did it really begin broadcasting? This is just one of the existential questions that the Dodgers are faced with as their recently created SportsNet LA network was available in only 32 percent of the homes in their market when the team began its season against the Arizona early Saturday morning, per Mark Saxon of ESPN LA.
On the plus side, at least there's a pretty good chance that the overwhelming majority of fans in the area wouldn't have been up for the 2 a.m. start anyways. Which might be one of the reasons that commissioner Bud Selig seems relatively unconcerned with the situation.
Exuding the car salesman cool that he's known for, Selig showed no signs of consternation about the issues with the Dodgers' massive TV deal -- and the $2.5 billion from the deal to be put into in the revenue sharing pool. At least that's what he's said at a press conference to kick off the festivities down under.
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"I have faith that the parties will work this out," Selig told reporters, per Saxon, "That's all I can say."
In fact, despite similar deals having plagued the (significantly less valuable) Astros -- and their woebegotten fans -- for over a season, Selig's demeanor speaks not just of someone who seems to have some inside knowledge of the deal, but years of experience with contentious deals that eventually find an amicable solution. "We always like things to be as smooth as possible, but there are always times in life when things don't work out exactly right," he said.
But, with a serious chunk of the team's value -- according to Forbes, $708 million of its $1.6 billion presumed value -- coming directly from the perceived value of their market, the second largest in the country, it seems like at least one party will be very sad (and significantly more poorer) if things aren't worked out in Los Angeles.
This isn't the first time the team's finances have been called into question. When the enormous deal for the team was first made by the Guggenheim Partners for $2.15 billion in 2012, many, including then-New York Times reporter Andrew Ross Sorkin, questioned the manner in which they raised the necessary funds.
Much of the concern at the time was based around the perceived volatility of the sports industry, as well as the serious overvaluation it appeared the firm had made on the team. An overvaluation, which may have been as much as $600 million over cost.
"Paying $1.5 billion or $1.6 billion -- I can get there. But anything after that is pure ego," a longtime sports banker who worked for a rival bidder for the Dodgers told Sorkin. "We've done the math. At that price, it just doesn't make any sense unless you want to be the king of Los Angeles."
Further complicating matters was that most of the money wasn't Magic Johnson's, the team's most visible part-owner, or the head financier Mark Walters', but from the coffers of the latter's firm, the aforementioned Guggenheim Partners. Using the money of the mega-wealthy to pay for the team scared some, but this was largely brushed aside by experts who reframed the deal in a more positive, business friendly light.
In reports by publications as prominent as the Wall Street Journal, the deal was seen as completely reasonable by well-respected names in the field of sports business -- like David Carter, director of the Sports Business Institute at the University of Southern California -- who told the paper to think of the purchase "not a baseball deal first but rather a television and entertainment deal that also comes with a real-estate opportunity."
But nearly two years later, with nearly all the value in the team -- bought with the money of people who did not directly agree to spend it on that -- based on its enormous TV contract, it appears that someone, somewhere -- probably at Time Warner Cable -- should start getting concerned, and fast. Or the Dodgers will be the only kings in Los Angeles subjected to local blackouts.