The Houston Astros, the worst team in Major League Baseball, is set to become the most profitable team in the sport’s history.
According to a Forbes report, “The Astros are on pace to rake in an estimated $99 million in operating income this season. That is nearly as much as the estimated operating income of the previous six World Series championship teams — combined.”
The highest-paid player on the team makes $1.15 million and 64 baseball players make more than the whole team combined. The Astros, currently at 43-86, have the worst record in the league since 2005.
But Jim Crane, the team’s owner, is raking in the money because of “slashed payroll expenses and soaring television revenues”:
The regional sports network Comcast SportsNet Houston pays the Astros $80 million a year to show their games — about $50 million more than the Astros got under their previous deal.
The massive boost in revenue means that the Astros have plenty of spare money. They could pay for their current payroll six times over with money from their local television deal alone. And they bring in nearly $40 million from other television and radio deals.
In an age when DVR and Netflix allow people to watch TV without commercials, live sports remain one of the few types of programming that advertisers consider DVR-proof. No one wants to miss a play, and everyone has to see it live — and is therefore stuck with the commercials too. Just 19% of television households owned DVR in 2008, but 44% do today, according to Nielsen. Sports programming has never been so valuable.
The Astros are “the largest stakeholder in CSN Houston,” which reportedly lost $63 million last year, which means Crane “could make even more if he ups payroll and fields a team good enough to draw fans back to the ballpark — and more importantly, back to their television sets.”