The Cable Guy

Win or Lose, Steinbrenner Wins

Just in case anyone out there still hasn't grasped the degree to which "revenue sharing" in baseball is utter crapola, consider the added benefits George Steinbrenner is getting from shifting Yankee telecasts from MSG Network to the in-house YES Network. No one's sure exactly how much money the Boss will end up raking in once the Cablevision rights war is settled, but a reasonable guess is around $100 million per annum, or double what the Yanks pulled in from their old MSG deal.

The Boss likely could have collected a similar haul had he re-upped with MSG instead of forming his own network, but with one caveat: Revenue from MSG would have to be reported to MLB, and divided with the rest of the league as part of revenue-sharing. (Current rules have 20 percent of local broadcast revenues shared; that would rise to 50 percent under the owners' proposal as of last week.) But as revenue under the YankeeNets corporate umbrella, the cash flow can be assigned to whatever entity George desires, be it the Yankees, the Nets, YES itself, or the George Steinbrenner Fund for Displaced Washroom Attendants. Given that this is a man who once paid himself a $25 million "consulting fee" for negotiating his own cable deal, we'd hate to put anything past him.

By shifting the $50 million in new income from the "Yankees" column on the ledger to the "YES" column, then, Steinbrenner could save himself $10 million a year in revenue-sharing payments—$25 million if the new enhanced revenue sharing goes through. Other media-owned teams, such as the Braves/AOL Time Warner, Cubs/Tribune, and Red Sox/New England Sports Network, can play similar accounting shell games, but not the Mets, who are locked into a 30-year deal with Cablevision and so would be forced to ante up the full 50 percent. If you've wondered why the Yanks can afford to throw millions at sixth starters and minor outfield upgrades while the Mets stick to swapping warm bodies, there's one reason: Boss George knows that no matter what deal Bud Selig and Don Fehr ultimately strike, his cable lucre is safe in one of his many corporate pockets.

 
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