Cardinals exploring broadcasting options for 2025 and beyond

With the precariousness of the St. Louis Cardinals' Regional Sports Network, Bill DeWitt III has been forced to seek new broadcasting ideas.

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Houston Astros v Minnesota Twins / David Berding/GettyImages
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Diamond Sports Group (DSG), the parent company to Bally Sports Midwest, has been in bankruptcy filings since last March. In turn, Bally's broadcasting of Major League Baseball games has remained uncertain for thirteen teams, now eleven after the San Diego Padres and Arizona Diamondbacks assumed their rights back last summer.

Court proceedings that were initially scheduled for last Wednesday, January 9th, have been rescheduled to this Friday, January 19th according to reports published by The Athletic. DSG will have to determine in court which teams it will continue to carry games for through its Regional Sports Networks (RSN).

The St. Louis Cardinals are one such team. After a 2018 deal with Fox Sports Midwest, rebranded as Bally Sports Midwest as of 2021, the organization saw years of progress in both broadcasting and revenue. RSNs were just one arm of income for the franchise; ticket sales, sponsorships, merchandise, and revenue sharing were other branches of the revenue formula for Bill DeWitt Jr. and Bill DeWitt III, but Bally's provided a decent chunk of that revenue. The deal was initially for fifteen years with $1.1 billion to be distributed during that timeline; the Cardinals had a treasure trove of income on their side now to dip into whenever they found fitting.

On Monday during the final day of the Winter Warm-Up at Busch Stadium and Ballpark Village, the DeWitts shed some light on the uncertain topic that is broadcasting rights. They assured fans that the 2024 season will be covered by Bally Sports Midwest, and they were confident that they would receive 100% payment for the season, confirming that this uncertainty did not hamper offseason spending for next year.

Spending for future years, well, that's a different story. That led the younger of the two DeWitt owners to discuss the organization's plan for broadcasting games in 2025 and beyond. Bill DeWitt III spoke candidly about the issue for about fifteen minutes, showing the amount of brainpower that he has exerted on this topic. He spoke about the dwindling amount of eyeballs on games currently due to people cutting ties with cable and cable networks cutting ties with Bally's.

"Let's say you were a bundled subscriber (standard cable), and you cut the cord, and you're not going streaming with all of your content. Well, there isn't a direct Cardinal streaming option right now in market. So, that's one way eyeballs have gone down. Number two is you're a bundled subscriber, and you've maintained that bundle, but your particular distributor has dropped the RSN. "

Bill DeWitt III

DeWitt III also presented four different ways in which the games could be broadcast down the road: a direct network from the Cardinals themselves, a collaboration with MLB, a joint venture with the St. Louis Blues, or a scenario in which a new provider such as Amazon or Spectrum gains the broadcast rights to the games. Each of these presents various pros and cons, but perhaps the most beneficial financially for the Cardinals would be a scenario in which they own, produce, and distribute their games on their own, possibly even with the St. Louis Blues.

The main goal for the DeWitt family is to create a direct-to-consumer approach. He wants to increase "eyeballs" on the game. Essentially, DeWitt wants to make it as easy as possible for interested fans to be able to watch the game whenever and wherever possible.

"Regardless of how it works, it's likely there will be a direct-to-consumer product that emerges where anybody that doesn't have access to games now would be able to buy a monthly package and get direct streaming in-market. I think to summarize on this issue, from a team standpoint, and from an industry standpoint, it's quite a scramble. From a fan standpoint, it's going to get better pretty soon."

Bill DeWitt III

Some issues could arise once teams get their rights back. Large markets such as New York and Los Angeles could benefit from having a greater viewing population, thus increasing their revenue and only furthering the gap between large and small market teams. DeWitt assuaged these concerns by saying that any team that gets direct streaming rights will benefit financially.

The Dodgers will likely have a large portion of Asian viewers due to their signings of Shohei Ohtani and Yoshinobu Yamamoto. Any foreign streaming income goes to the larger pool, which is then re-distributed across various teams via Major League Baseball.

In the end, ownership's goal once they regain power over their broadcasting rights is to create a seamless presentation to fans. Regardless of how games are broadcast in 2025 and beyond, the Cardinal faithful can be confident that the product will be more accessible to them.

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