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Cardinals sign new 15-year TV rights deal

ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals and FOX Sports Midwest announced a new 15-year television rights agreement on Thursday that, according to the St. Louis Post Dispatch, will net the Cardinals more than $1 billion. The agreement will begin in 2018, which is when the current deal expires.

With television rights deals exploding in other markets, the Cardinals had been seeking to make theirs more lucrative so they, too, could enjoy an influx of extra profits to use toward payroll increases or other organizational endeavors.

"We're really excited," principal chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. said. "We worked on it for a very long time, and I think it's a good piece of timing for both sides. FOX Sports Midwest has done a great job with their telecasts, and I think this increased rights fee and equity component will enable us to continue to be competitive on the field and do at Busch Stadium the kinds of things we're used to doing and maintain and build on the Cardinal brand."

As part of the agreement, the Cardinals will have an equity stake in FOX Sports Midwest. DeWitt said that most of the recent agreements reached between teams and regional sports networks have featured equity participation because of the changing landscape in cable television and the delivery of sports programming.

"No one really knows what the future is going to bring," DeWitt said. "It's a current model where it's not just straight whatever the highest rights fees you can get, it's more of a partnership with the regional sports network."

FOX Sports Midwest has been the exclusive local television rightsholder for the team over the last five seasons and has televised Cardinals games for 22 years in total. In each of the last 15 years, the Cardinals have ranked in Major League Baseball's top three in terms of local ratings. In 2014, their local market television rating was the best in baseball.

FOX Sports Midwest currently broadcasts every Cardinals game not picked up for a national telecast and has, in recent years, increased its game coverage of Spring Training.

Forecasting that such a deal would be done soon, the Cardinals had already begun to budget for higher payrolls in the coming years. According to The Associated Press, the Cardinals had an Opening Day payroll this season around $121 million, which was 11th-highest in baseball. Having a larger pool of funds will also allow the Cardinals to become more prominent players in the International markets such as Cuba and Asia.

"To be competitive, particularly at the Major League level, and also in bringing talent into the organization, we do need to keep up our payroll and try to keep it in the top third, which we've tried to maintain," DeWitt said.

In conjunction with Thursday's announcement of a television rights extension, the two parties also unveiled plans to enhance its partnership with Ballpark Village. FOX Sports Midwest uses a second-floor studio inside Ballpark Village for its pre- and postgame Cardinals shows.

"The Cardinals are one of the premier franchises in all of sports and one of the crown jewels of Major League Baseball," said Jack Donovan, vice president and general manager of FOX Sports Midwest. "They have inspired loyalty in millions of fans, and we are very pleased to continue our longstanding relationship with this outstanding organization."

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB, like her Facebook page Jenifer Langosch for and listen to her podcast.
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