The Mariners will take full ownership of the ROOT Sports Northwest regional sports network on January 1, according to Ryan Divish and Adam Jude of the Seattle Times. The Mariners had already held a 71% share in ROOT Sports NW since 2013, and they’ll now assume the 29% share previously held by Warner Bros. Discovery, as the corporation is getting out of the RSN business.
This could mean some cuts at ROOT, as Mariners chairman John Stanton met with staffers on Tuesday and “could not promise all staffers that they would retain their jobs,” Divish and Jude write. More clarity will emerge on the organizational side by mid-January, Stanton told the ROOT employees, and in a statement to Divish/Jude, Stanton said “our top priority is to ensure all Mariners fans have access to watch Mariners games from their home each night.”
In addition to the M’s, ROOT is also the broadcast home of the NHL’s Seattle Kraken, as well as the NBA’s Portland Trail Blazers and (in select markets) Utah Jazz, and some college basketball games involving schools in the Pacific Northwest. As such, any decision the Mariners take about ROOT’s future involves several other teams and existing contracts, and it isn’t necessarily a guarantee that the M’s will remain with ROOT in its current form.
As Divish and Jude note, the Mariners might opt to sell their broadcasting rights to Major League Baseball itself, following the path of some teams whose TV rights were impacted by the Diamond Sports Group’s bankruptcy announcement last March. Even the M’s might explore this possibility in the future, however, the “most likely decision” for 2024 is that the team will continue ROOT productions as usual, and simply absorb the new costs associated with full ownership of the network.
Owning a regional sports network has traditionally been seen a positive or even a cash cow for teams in various sports, though the broadcasting landscape has changed rather drastically as more and more customers have either cut back on cable subscriptions or cut the cord entirely. Comcast Xfinity announced in October that it was planning to double the cost of a subscription to ROOT, which could have even more of an adverse impact on viewership.
With WBD out of the picture, the Mariners will now carry the full brunt of additional costs themselves, and the impact is already being seen in the team’s baseball operations decisions. Cutting payroll has been the chief focus of Seattle’s…