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The Twins' TV deal with Bally Sports isn't what the team or its fans wanted

FORT MYERS, FLA. — The twins bravely pretended Monday that they were excited about their new television contract, a one-year consolation prize they didn't really want.

“We are delighted to be back at Bally Sports North. We know they will do a great job in 2024, just as they have done for the many years they have been the home of Twins baseball,” said team president Dave St Peter insisted. “At the same time, we know it’s not a perfect outcome for anyone.”

So true. The Twins wanted a new partner who could sell their games on a streaming platform and all but promised this new option last fall. But after a winter of searching for a partnership that makes financial sense, they will enter the 2024 season without one, with no Twins fans the option to watch their games without paying for a variety of channels that they won't see.

They remain stuck in the cable-bundling era, where customers pay a monthly fee to receive 100 or more channels, while many or most of their viewers have moved on to the streaming era, where customers subscribe (usually for far more lower fees). only on the channels that interest you. Cable and satellite packages were once hugely profitable for teams and their networks, but for at least another year the Twins will be locked into this dying concept as they try to adapt.

Even the streaming services that carry the Twins' Bally Sports North broadcasts — FuboTV or DirecTV Stream, for example — offer them in cable packages that cost $80 or more per month.

“We are aware of the fact that some of our fans are having difficulty watching our games and we want to resolve this as quickly as possible,” St. Peter said. “We're already working on 2025. We've had many different conversations about the future of Twins television, and those conversations will continue.”

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The Twins' most tempting option so far has been to join a joint effort with Major League Baseball to offer teams on their own streaming platform. But Diamond Sports Group, the parent company of the 19 regional sports networks under the Bally brand, has been in bankruptcy proceedings for nearly a year and is trying to stay in business. This creates additional uncertainty that prevents MLB from developing such a product for this season.

Until that changes, the Twins had to settle for a new contract — at an undisclosed price but believed to be well below the $54 million BSN paid last year — to stay on the network for another year .

But regardless of whether their broadcast partner changes next year or not, the twins fear the loss of television revenue will continue for some time. They've reduced payroll from about $154 million on opening day last year to a projected total of about $130 million by 2024.

“Our planning for a decline in sales is fairly well documented, but we expect this will only be the case for a period of time before anything changes,” St. Peter said. “I look at it as building a business. We have content that is desirable and we believe we can build a very profitable business around streaming. Things may be difficult in the next few years, but there is a solid opportunity. We’ll see.” I look forward to moving forward with this future.

Puckett's catch stands out again

The Twins' spring headquarters at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers, Fla., was relatively quiet Monday as even early-arriving players took a final day off before spring training began in earnest. Pitchers and catchers must check in by Wednesday and begin team-organized workouts on Thursday.

About 500 feet from the ballpark, a familiar sight has been returned to its prominent place at the Lee Health Sports Complex. A huge metal effigy of Kirby Puckettjumped to the left center field wall to rob Ron Gant for an extra-base hit during the 1991 World Series, is again suspended from the team's minor league clubhouse.

The artwork was severely damaged by Hurricane Ian in 2022 and was demolished as part of restoration before the camp opened last year.

This is the most noticeable change to the Twins' suspension. Lee Health, the team's new naming rights partner, now graces the stadium's main scoreboard, “and we've done some cosmetic touches around the stadium and added some new concession offerings,” St. Peter said. “We are back to full operations after the pandemic, the lockout and the hurricane and we are optimistic that fans will respond in the same numbers as before all of this.”

The Twins drew 98,318 fans in 16 Grapefruit League games last spring, an average of 6,145. That was an 18.5% increase over the abbreviated spring 2022 schedule, but still 16.8% less than the 2018 average of 7,385 fans.

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