If you want one reason why live sports will return sooner than later, even if they have to do it without fans in the stands, look at television revenue.
TV sports broadcasts are getting huge ratings right now. The NFL draft on ESPN posted the highest ratings in the history of the broadcast. The first round of the draft averaged 15.6 million viewers, breaking the previous high of 12.4 million set in 2014.
The latest media move for sports during the coronavirus shutdown was also by ESPN, which must have done its fastest negotiation ever to be able to broadcast six games each week out of the Korea Baseball Organization, which started its season Monday.
In our local market, the Twins are coming off a 2019 season in which they increased their ratings on Fox Sports North by 65% over 2018.
They averaged over 110,000 viewers per game in 2019, and if they get back to playing games soon, those numbers will be even higher.
There’s no doubt that losing the gate revenue from fans, even if it’s only for part of the season, will have a big impact. But Twins President Dave St. Peter said the club is aware of how important the revenue from television could be for finances this season.
The Twins don’t release how much money they receive from Fox Sports North or their other media deals such as WCCO Radio, but it has to be a huge chunk of their operating income.
On top of that, MLB has national TV deals with Fox, TBS, ESPN and MLB Network that pay out big dollars to each club.
The latest deal was MLB signing a seven-year renewal contract with Fox Sports through 2028 that was worth $5.1 billion.
All of that money makes a huge difference.
St. Peter said the league has been in close contact with each club about financial planning during the shutdown.
“So Major League Baseball has certainly been incredibly supportive. I give Commissioner [Rob] Manfred high marks for his leadership and the guidance he is providing the owners and all of the clubs,” St. Peter said. “And Major League Baseball is, I think, well-positioned to go forward and flourish. At this point the clubs are doing a lot of financial modeling and trying to get a better understanding of just what the impact is going to be with the potential for a reduced or lost 2020 season. Those are discussions that are ongoing with Major League Baseball.”
When it comes to how the front office is handling discussions around the season, St. Peter said they are still holding virtual meetings and getting a lot of support from ownership.
“Both our senior leadership team and at the departmental level are meeting virtually,” he said. “I think that side of things has actually been one of the silver linings.
“I feel as though we’re well-connected and I think organizationally we feel as though we’re all on the same page and we feel the support from ownership and our leadership team.”
Clippard on Twins
The Twins made a ton of offseason moves to make a real effort to win the World Series before play was suspended in March.
One signing that went a little under the radar was bringing in reliever Tyler Clippard on a one-year, $2.75 million deal.
The 35-year-old first pitched in the majors with the Yankees in 2007, and since then he has the second-most strikeouts of any reliever in baseball with 905 in 816 innings pitched — trailing only Andrew Miller.
Clippard spent last season with Cleveland. While he posted a 2.90 ERA over 62 innings with 64 strikeouts, he did not have success against the Twins. In seven appearances over 8⅓ innings, he allowed eight runs on 10 hits with eight strikeouts for a 8.64 ERA.
Earlier this year he explained what it was like to face a Twins lineup that set the MLB record for home runs (307) last season.
“It was just a grind. You felt like each hitter, 1-to-9, could do damage,” Clippard recalled. “There was really no letup in that lineup, regardless of where you were at in it. Anytime you, as a pitcher, you’re facing a team with the amount of depth, the amount of guys that have just good plate discipline and the ability to hit the long ball and just the dynamic of that lineup, [it] was just really a tough lineup to pitch to. You felt like the margin for error was really small.
“Anytime you put that kind of pressure on a pitching staff, no matter how good they are, it just grinds them down. That’s what that lineup does.”
Clippard was a two-time All-Star with the Nationals and pitched in the 2015 World Series with the Mets. He said he credits his ability to stay in the game with coming up in the Yankees organization.
“It has been a long road. This is my 10th organization,” Clippard said. “ But my first dabble in professional baseball was in the Yankees organization, and they did a great job with me and that’s a great organization. They laid the foundation of kind of my trajectory in the game. In 2007 I came up on a Yankees team with a bunch of Hall of Fame guys and to be around those guys has really helped me kind of move around in my career in the right way. I think I was just lucky enough to be around that atmosphere.
“They imparted a lot of good things to me that I have carried along with me throughout the way. It has been a fun ride. I have been a lot of different places and enjoyed it all. I am happy to keep it going and hopefully I can pitch at a high level for a few more years.”
U recruits deliver
Athan and Dino Kaliakmanis are two of the big recruits who have given a verbal commitment to the Gophers football team for 2021.
The twin brothers live in Antioch, Ill., and the Chicago Tribune ran a story on how they are helping their father, Alex, keep his restaurant operating during the state shutdown because of the coronavirus.
The restaurant is named Corniciones and specializes in pizza. The two brothers have been helping their dad with carryout and delivery and told the paper they are making some good money on tips.
“I got as much as $180 on a Friday night,” Athan said. “My biggest single tip was $35. Usually they’re $5 to $10.”
He added that the support the family restaurant is getting at this time has been really important.
“That is what is so special about this town,” Athan said. “Everybody is so loyal in Antioch.”
Athan is a 6-4, 190-pound dual-threat quarterback and is rated the third-highest prospect in Illinois. Dino is a 6-2, 188-pounder rated as the 115th-best wide receiver in the nation.