Examining the Toronto Blue Jays as a behemoth among Major League Baseball teams, after the claim club President Mark Shapiro made
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“That plan is that we’ll continue to win and as we win, the revenues will increase and where those dollars go, I think there’s no limit to what this market can be.”
“I think it’s a behemoth and we’re going to continue to get better and continue to add the players and keep the players that we have necessary to be a championship team year in, year out,” Toronto Blue Jays President Mark Shapiro referring to the Toronto Blue Jays Market.
So, why does the baseball industry (including Forbes in their annual baseball team valuation report) tend to talk about the Blue Jays as a mid-market team while Shapiro clearly thinks that the Blue Jays market is a behemoth? Maybe it is historical revenue, maybe it is how that revenue was, or wasn’t, spent in the past. Whatever the reason, from the quote above Shapiro thinks the Blue Jays can generate the revenue needed to add and keep the quality players needed to compete for the World Series on a continual basis. Let’s examine why he may think that.
First we look at immediate market size. This is not the size of the actual city, rather it is the size of the local urban agglomeration that is important:
New York – 22,200,000
Los Angeles – 17,700,000
Chicago – 9,750,000
Washington / Baltimore – 8,500,000
San Francisco – 7,800,000
Boston – 7,600,000
Toronto – 7,450,000
Philadelphia – 7,350,000
Dallas / Fort Worth – 6,900,000
Houston – 6,500,000
Toronto ranks 7th in the size of its urban agglomeration, right there with Boston and Philadelphia. That is a huge immediate population to draw from. Further, and very important, other than Boston every other city listed above has two teams competing for the same dollars in that market. The Jays are the only (baseball) game in town.
Speaking of Boston, the Red Sox are clearly a big market team. Often their popularity in New England is cited as one of the reasons why. Well, New England as a population of 14,800,000 while Ontario has a population of 14,500,000 – which means their secondary markets are practically identical.
Stadium location within the market is also important. Rogers Center is located at the epicentre of one of the largest and most affluent cities in North America. It is one of the anchors of the downtown Toronto Tourist district which draws families from all over the GTA and Canada. I have been to old Yankee Stadium, Tropicana Field and Fenway Park. Not one of those stadiums are surrounded by expensive condo buildings housing tens of thousands of well off fans within walking distance as Rogers Center does. Spend ten minutes on Google Earth and you can see the locational advantage Rogers Center has over stadiums in Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia and Fort Worth within their respective urban areas. Not one of them compare to Toronto (full disclosure, I am an Urban Planner by trade and am obsessed with this type of ‘locational’ stuff).
Given the information above, Toronto has the local and secondary market population to compete with any big market team, save New York and LA.
TV / Media Revenue
Due to the unique ownership structure of the Blue Jays compared to other MLB teams their local TV revenue is not straight forward. Most teams have a contract to sell broadcast rights to regional sports networks. This revenue ranges from the Dodgers at $239,000,000 / year to the Marlins at $20,000,000 / year, according to Fan Graphs. The Blue Jays of course have no information listed in the table. This is because the Jays are owned by Rogers, which owns Sportsnet, which broadcast the games. A quick scan of the Rogers 2019 annual report indicates that the Blue Jays are part of their media group. The team’s function is to provide content for their broadcast / digital media platforms. The report actually indicates that one of the risks moving forward is increased competition for broadcast rights for programming, which makes ownership of the Jays extremely valuable to the company.
The value of the Blue Jays broadcast rights are caught in the overall value of the media division for the parent company Rogers. This value is not only a result of the immediate and secondary markets (GTA / Ontario) but the huge tertiary market the Blue Jays command which is the entire country of Canada – all 37,894,799 strong. Only the Yankees and Dodgers global brand recognition can compete with this tertiary market. The potential TV revenue for Rogers, not to mention digital media potential if it could be effectively monetized, of this market must be one of the most valuable commodities in baseball, especially considering only about 30% of team revenue is derived directly from game day receipts.
While it was a long time ago, Toronto had strong attendance numbers from the team’s inception right through the early nineties when they perennially lead the league in bums in the seats. Once the organization lost its focus fans did too and attendance faltered. Fast forward to 2015-16 when attendance for a championship caliber team exploded in this market. In addition fans all across Canada proudly displayed their Jays caps and jerseys and ratings for Blue Jays broadcasts were through the roof. One would expect that to happen again during this next period of championship contention.
While I do not have the depth of knowledge about baseball finances that a company like Forbes likely does, an objective look at the Toronto market indicates why Blue Jays President Mark Shapiro feels this market can be a behemoth. And really, it is only his opinion and the opinion of his bosses that matters in the end.
And finally, hello to you all…
As many of you may have noticed, this is my first article for Jays From the Couch. I would like to express my sincere thank you to Shaun Doyle for inviting me to be part of this amazing team. I look forward to collaborating with the other great contributors here at JFtC to provide quality Toronto Blue Jays new, views and analysis. Let’s Go Blue Jays!
*Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase.
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Jason C MacDonald has been a Blue Jays fan since the late 1980’s. His lifelong passion for Baseball and the Blue Jays has recently led him to start writing at JFtC. When not working at his day job or driving his two teenage sons to their sporting events Jason is usually reading, listening, watching or now writing about baseball.