SBJ Media: Inside the MLB-Diamond deal

This is my last SBJ Media. Thanks to everyone who has read and supported this newsletter since it started before the pandemic. It’s scary to leave a place you love after 17+ years and I love SBJ.

Diamond has agreed to pay most of its MLB teams a full-rights fee this season as part of a deal the two sides worked out — but have not yet signed — last week, sources said.

Three teams are not part of this agreement – the Twins, the Guardians and the Rangers. The Rangers and Guardians have long-term deals with Diamond. The Twins’ contract expired at the end of last season.

By the end of this week, Diamond has committed to releasing offers to those teams – possibly at lower rights fees than they are paying.

If those teams don’t accept the new deals from Diamond, their local rights will revert to MLB — just as the local rights for the Padres and Diamondbacks did last season.

An interesting part of the deal, according to sources, is that MLB is pushing to add a provision that if Diamond Sports doesn’t fulfill any of those rights deals this season, MLB will gain control of Diamond’s stake in the YES Network. Diamond, which owns 20% of YES Network, is unlikely to agree to such a provision.

Further complicating matters is the Wall Street Journal’s report that Amazon is negotiating an investment in Diamond that would include a “multi-year streaming partnership.” As part of the discussed transaction with Diamond, Diamond will continue to operate its RSNs.

“Diamond has received support from a select group of creditors to continue negotiations. Each transaction is subject to bankruptcy court approval and could still fail,” according to Lauren Thomas and Joe Flint of the WSJ.

ESPN luminaries and others gathered at the Aqua Turf Club to celebrate the career of retiring Chris Laplaca

The scene at the Aqua Turf Club in Plantsville, Conn., last Wednesday looked like something out of It’s a Wonderful Life.

About 130 current and former ESPN members gathered to honor Chris LaPlaca, a well-liked and respected ESPN executive who is retiring after a stellar 43 years in Bristol.

A who’s who of celebrities addressed the Wednesday night crowd, including Rosa Gatti, George Bodenheimer, Jimmy Pitaro and former LaPlaca intern Adrian Wojnarowski. All of their speeches had similar themes: They discussed the impact LaPlaca has had on his colleagues over the past four decades.

When LaPlaca took the microphone, he reflected on how much of the uncertainty plaguing the media business today reflects the challenges ESPN faced 43 years ago. He pointed to common attributes that existed in Bristol 40 years ago — and are still evident today — a commitment to journalism combined with an entrepreneurial spirit.

Odds and ends

  • Voi got up in the middle of Laplaca’s speech and quickly left the room. After a few minutes he returned. During his quick exit, he broke the news via X that the NBA was suspending Draymond Green indefinitely, a post that garnered 38 million views. “I asked the NBA not to announce the suspension between 8:00 p.m. and 8:15 p.m.,” he said nonchalantly.
  • “SportsCenter” host Kevin Negandy emceed the event. Chris Berman was in attendance. Current executives in attendance included Burke Magnus, Roz Durant, Chara-Lynn Aguiar and Tina Thornton. A special shout out to former ESPNer Kerry Potts who flew in from London for the event.
  • In keeping with LaPlaca’s heritage, the evening carried an Italian theme, from the event’s name (“Ciao Chris”) to the parting gifts of LaPlaca La Pasta-branded macaroni noodles.

Chris LaPlaca addresses guests at his ESPN retirement party

Want to know how competitive Peyton Manning is? Omaha Productions held its first off-site in Los Angeles on Thursday, and the company’s president decided it would be a good idea to host an Omaha-themed “Family Feud.”

It should come as no surprise that Peyton Manning led his team to victory, I’m told.

The day included a conversation with Manning, a motivational speech and magic show from NFL Pro Bowler John Dorenbos, and a brand research presentation from ESPN’s former head of research, Barry Blinn.

Jamie Horowitz (left) directs Omaha Productions’ “Family Feud” as Peyton Manning is ready to respond

  • Congratulations to UCLA AD Martin Jarmond, whom Ohio University has named its Charles R. Higgins Distinguished Alumnus of 2024. Jarmond graduated from OU’s MBA/MSA dual degree program in 2003.
  • The upcoming feature The Boat Boys is about a journey so incredible that “you wouldn’t believe it if it weren’t actually true,” director George Clooney told my colleague Eric Bacharach.
  • NBC Sports is looking to Jeff Ogilvy to replace Paul Azinger on its golf broadcasts, sources told SBJ’s Josh Carpenter. Ogilvie, the 2006 US Open winner, has gained more prominence in golf circles in recent years for his knowledge of course architecture as well as his opinion on current affairs.

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