The Twins on Monday announced their return to Bally Sports North for 2024 on a one-year deal. Team president and CEO Dave St. Peter spoke The Athletic about the agreement, which he called a “bit of a half-loaf” deal. It kept the Twins with their previous broadcast partner and cleared the future, but didn’t expand the telecast’s reach into an expanded streaming option — something San Pedro and the organization said was a purpose
Today, St. Peter sees 2025 coming with more streaming options, and the introduction of a national MLB-backed package could make it work.
He declined to specify what the Twins paid as a rights fee to Bally Sports North this year. The one-year deal was approved Friday in bankruptcy court, where the parent company of Bally’s regional sports networks, Diamond Sports Group, is trying to avoid liquidation.
The questions and answers have been lightly edited for clarity.
How do you feel about the one-year deal?
There is a benefit of clarity in having a deal. It is a long and winding road. And at some point, recognizing the calendar, it is important to close in 2024. And for the Twins, the return of Bally Sports North is generally viewed positively. The people who make our games, sell our games, work on the distribution of our games, they are dear friends. They’ve been critical partners to the Twins for a long time, and I know they’ll do an incredible job in 2024 with storytelling. And thus, those local women and men have nothing to do with the national challenges that their parent company has, and all the uncertainty that surrounds it affects them and their livelihood. That’s part of this narrative that maybe doesn’t play enough, which I think is a good thing from today’s announcement – for the people at Bally Sports North.
That said, it’s not a perfect outcome for anyone. It’s a one-year deal for us. Some of it is in our control, most of it is out of our control. Some of these are products of the bankruptcy system. And when we think about it from our perspective, it’s a balancing act. You balance the economy, distribution and quality of production, and local priorities versus national priorities.
The disappointing news is that we have said very clearly that our top priority is expanding the reach of our games. We feel we’re in a unique position to provide that, because we’re a free agent in the television world. And at the end of the day, we ended up doing a one-year deal with linear distribution only, and we know that leaves a growing number of our fans in a place where they’re going to struggle with watching our games.
For that, we feel it’s a little half-baked. It’s clear for ’24, but we didn’t set a goal as we went into the offseason in terms of expanding our reach, and we’re going to double that priority for the future. And I can assure you, it will lead us in a very meaningful way to where we will land in 2025.
How confident are you that the ’25 will bring something different?
One of the things that really inspires me is baseball’s continued focus on solutions. Commissioner (Rob) Manfred I thought it was very clear last week to continue to outline a vision for 2025. There is a lot of that vision that we endorse, and are excited about. And we believe that the future of Twins television, from a linear side, but also from a D-to-C (direct-to-consumer) side, with a bright future in terms of improving reach. So I think we’re confident that MLB certainly provides a strong option for us in ’25.
I don’t think this is the only option. I think there are other options based on the conversations we’ve had with Diamond and other broadcasters. But really from a direct-to-consumer perspective, it’s an option that’s very appealing to us.
How do you explain to a fan why the arrival hasn’t expanded for this year?
It requires alignment. Some of that is in our control, some is not. I think of it as three stool legs. Perhaps you can add a fourth leg in this case, but it requires an alignment between the broadcaster, the team and your league. I don’t think we found that alignment.
Your salary is almost $125 million. If the TV deal is done, does that mean more money will be spent on payroll?
Clarity in the economic environment, at least on paper, helps. The uncertainty in local television is certainly a factor in helping us develop a plan for 2024. I think it remains to be seen how much of an impact the ’24 TV deal will have on our operations in 2024, including payroll. But as I’ve reflected in past seasons, I think our ownership has always kept an open mind about ways to improve our team. Derek (Falvey) and our baseball people know that. Again, whether that’s the consideration of moves here in the short term, or over time, I think those conversations will happen.
But I can’t point to a specific change in strategy. I think it’s more likely than not that the reality is that any impact from our TV deal, relative to our short-term player investments, will be limited. But that will ultimately depend on the market, and as far as the opportunities Derek feels are good for the Twins.
How much is the pay cut due to the TV situation as opposed to say, attendance concerns? What is destruction?
I won’t go into details, but the local media is an element of that. There are other elements that affect how you think about your budget, or as I think of it, your business plan.
Can you explain the vision that Manfred has laid out for 2025?
He has a vision for aggregating a number of teams as soon as 2025, and gaining some level of scale to go to the market with. A lot of that is what we believe. But we also know that there is much work to be done. And there are probably more questions than answers as it relates to the evolving, kind of rapidly changing media landscape.
Is there a message you want to convey to the fans?
The biggest thing is, we get it, we’re not tone deaf. We understand the gap and we feel terrible that we, at least in the short term, have not been able to solve it. But we continue to focus on it, and I hope that soon we will solve the issue and improve accessibility. I think this is critical for the Twins. I think this is critical for our industry.
(Top photo: Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)