Wait. That‘s Keith Pelley?

It seems as though ol’ Twitter got a bit of a bee in its collective bonnet this morning thanks to this tweet from Steve Laudrantaye of the Globe and Mail, reporting from the Prime Time Sports and Entertainment Conference:

He later clarified that it was a paraphrase, not a direct quote from the Rogers Media president, but I trust that we’re getting the gist here. More importantly, I don’t see what the big deal is, or why anyone should expect the head of a sports-and-media conglomerate to slavishly pander at every opportunity to fans we all know he’s already got in his pocket.

Um… did you go to a Toronto FC match back when it was the hottest ticket in town, and then try it again in recent times? Do you remember what the Jays were like in the early nineties and how that atmosphere contrasts with what it’s like now? Think the Raptors, in a league that’s so especially driven by marquee players, don’t want more than anything to get their hands on another Vince Carter/you-gotta-watch-this-guy type?

Of course Pelley is right.

In sports being fashionable– when it’s not simply to do with novelty, or some kind of mass psychosis, as with the Leafs or Cubs– goes entirely hand-in-hand with winning. So when it comes right down to it, we ought to want the executives running our teams to think this way. Not in some narrow spectrum where they may only, vainly, try to push as many folks as they can to be as die hard as the people who showed up all September to watch this trainwreck of a Jays club, while tongue bathing those few in the process.

That is neither a realistic goal, nor anywhere close to a sensible one, as it overlooks the fact that the best way, and perhaps the only way, to turn a non-fan– someone who isn’t going to come into the game of his or her love for the sport alone– into a long-time, hard core fan. Not only that, it overlooks the necessity of strong corporate support when it comes to maintaining a franchise’s obviously vital financial health.

I entirely get that everybody is, quite rightly, ready to pounce on Fucking Rogers at every turn; that nobody wants to be priced out of a sport they love in much the way that Leafs fans are; that there’s a romanticism that comes with being part of the small band who really do care; and that some kind of acknowledgement of the hard-earned dollars that those people do spend might be kinda nice.

But in the context of what Pelley was surely talking about– business strategy– he’s not wrong. And, at least in my view, he’s not wrong to have not bothered to sugarcoat it, either. We don’t need that. We know the score.

And… uh… frankly, I’d be even more emphatic in my defence of Pelley and his acumen in this sphere if he hadn’t also said this:

… because, y’know, now I’m kinda terrified.


Image via Toro.

Comments (63)

  1. with regards to the obstacle courses, I assume he is talking abiut the rise in popularity of things like Tough Mudder and that kind of thing. While these kinds of grassroots events definitely have become more mainstream in recent years, I dont think we can see exponential growth of these sports. Im sure there will be diminishjng returns, and we’re not going to see the kind of growth weve seen THIS year EVERY year for the next 10 years. And it will not be a “big sport” in the context of how a media bigwig should thini of it…..that is, it wont be televised in prme time and there will be no real corporate sponsorship of it

    • He’s probably also talking about things like Wipeout, which I assume draws good ratings because it’s on all the god damn time.

      • On August 6, 2008, Wipeout was officially renewed for a second season.[3] The second season premiered on May 27, 2009, and with an audience of 9.69 million, Wipeout bested its first season average and gave ABC its best numbers in the Wednesdays-at-8 slot since November 2007.[20] The third season premiered on June 22, 2010, with ratings of 10.21 million,[21] with a special “Blind Date” episode getting 12.8 million viewers on June 1, 2010.[22] On January 6, 2011, the first season of Winter Wipeout premiered with the series’s highest ratings ever, beating the 8pm competition in the coveted 18-49 demographic and many other key demos.[23]

    • To quote Dr Dre, who upon stumbling upon Burning Man whilst looking for locations to shoot the “California Love” video wrote: “someone should get behind this shit and make some loot off these fools”.

  2. Even if it wasn’t a paraphrase, he is correct. The Jays haven’t had that marquee player since Robbie Alomar. And it is the “fashionable” fans that fill the seats. BTW, I’m first.

    • Shit, second….

    • oh god, please don’t start that “first” thing here.

    • Roy Who-lladay?
      Throw a no-hitter in your first post season game? Pffft. Not the stuff of legends at all.

    • @Blue Jays Angst.

      Jays have had marquee players since Alomar.

      Carlos Delgado, Clemens,Halladay,Bautista, Wells etc..

      Baseball is a team sport, so watching Bautista hit a solo HR when the team loses 3-1 is not fun.

      The key for 2013 is to build a team that can compete past August 1.

      The injuries for 2013 can’t be as bad as 2012, which will help, but they have to do more to build a competitive team.

      • Point taken, but not to the extent and popularity of Robbie. All the female fans were in love with him, and everyone was jumping on the bandwagon. Delgado, Wells, Halladay and the others didn’t capture the hearts of Toronto like he did, that was the point I was making. All those players you mentioned combined, wouldn’t add up to Alomar’s popularity.

    • That statement about marquee players applies much more to the nba which is all about stars. In baseball you can have several “star” players and still be a shitty tean. More variables are requires to win.

      • @afdg.

        The Jays could have 25 nobodies on the team, but if they won games , people would show up.

        Having Halladay helps, but he only pitches once every 5 games.

  3. So basically he is saying you need good players to attract fans, which increases revenue, which intern helps build a good product capable of competing. HMMMM makes a lot of sense….. It almost seems to easy. I am shaking my head here.

    • @master.

      Don’t forget that Rogers as a corporation is used to operating in oligopolistic or monopolistic markets.

      Ted Rogers friendship with Brian Mulroney helped get him one of the few cellphone franchise rights back in the early 1980′s.

      Rogers cable made money by having exclusive rights to cable TV in certain regions of the country.

      Rogers is slowly learning after 12 years of ownership that having exclusive rights to baseball in Toronto is only valuable if people care enough about baseball to show up to games or watch them on TV.

      They can’t force fans to show up to games or watch them on tv.

      • rogers owning all of sportsnet, probably helps them quite a bit. it’s obvious to anyone who wants to watch a particular ballgame that doesn’t have sportsnet1 how they try to sell sportsnet1 to jays fans. but, if you buy sportsnet1, that doesn’t mean you’re a jays fan and it doesn’t mean you’re buying blue jays content…just rogers sportsnet content. so, how does that income get reported to mlb for transfer payments and so on? in other words: a bunch of accounting magic that makes backwards engineering the blue jays financials pretty hard.

        • @carbuncle.

          I think the Rogers accounting department is smart enough to undervalue tv broadcast revenue to make Jays revenue look worse than it should be.

          MLB knows what Rogers does so they cut them off the small market team revenue sharing they used to get.

          There is also the compensatory draft pick that the jays no longer qualify for.

          RADAR estimated revenue from sportsnet 1 as 10-15 million per year which is very profitable for Rogers.

          • i have no idea where that number comes from. and i have reason to suspect that neither of you know what revenue is.

  4. Very interesting quote from Pelley.
    Perhaps he finally realizes that the way to grow the Jays revenues is by targetting casual fans.

    casual fans show up when the team is winning.

    The team wins when they put good players on the field.

    Good players on the field come from development of your own farm system, trades & free agent signings.

    Since it takes time to develop the farm system, perhaps Rogers will give AA some more $$$ to build the team quicker or at least recreate the buzz from last March.

    Jays have already done the new uniforms, so they can’t do that again.

    Some of the shine is off the young players. Ricky Ro & Lawrie have mnot performed as well in 2012 as 2011.

    The Jays have a solid core of 10-15K season ticket holders, but they use to have 50K in the early 90′s.

    I am sure that as the team becomes more competitive, it can recreate that solid group of fans & encourage businesses to buy Jays tickets for their clients.

    Rogers must be aware that if the Jays were in a pennant race in September 2013, the would have increased revenue from ticket sales, tv ratings & bandwith sales to cellphone users who would watch games on their cellphones.

    Rogers must be aware that even formerly small market teams are getting huge tv revenue deals which allows them to bid up the cost of payroll.

    If Brandon League can get 22 million deal as a reliever, you know that payroll costs are skyrocketing.

    Yu darvish would probably have got 75 million deal in 2013 vs 60 milion last year.

    Pelley’s realization of business reality is a positive sign for fans.

    • 50k season ticket holders? No I don’t think so, not even close considering that was the capacity of the dome at the time. Sellouts don’t = all season ticket holders.

      • @night manimal. There wasn’t 50K season ticket holders but there were 50K ticket sold at every game. Someone paid for those tickets.

    • i would love to see josh hamilton as a jay next year. i’m not sure i’d love when they complain about “payroll parameters” in 2016 when he’d still be owed $80+ million over the next 4 years of his proposed deal. i think the same can be said for a lot of the “top” of the free agent class.
      if they can get him for jose reyes money, what’s the harm in that? the upside is much better than signing a middle-rotation pitcher like sanchez, and his floor is basically that he gets injured too much. you can probably insure a contract for cases of injury…i don’t really know how the nuts and bolts work.

    • It’s not a positive thing that Pelley just clued in today that winning will drive up revenues of a sports franchise. I mean, I suppose if you want to take a glass-half full approach, you can look forward to 10 years from now when he clues in that a MLB team in the AL East isn’t going to win on a 85 million dollar payroll.

      Unfortunately, payrolls across MLB are about to inflate dramatically over the next 5 years. 80 million today = 100 million tomorrow.

      So the Jays spending 100 million a few years from now, should approximately equate to them spending 80 million in 2012.

      No, I think Pelley’s comments are further proof that the Jays are owned by a bunch of morons.

      • Mitt Romney of the business world…oh wait! He’s in the business world too.

      • @Razor.

        This is baby steps for Rogers.

        When you are used to running a company with guaranteed customers, its impressive that Pelley realizes that the stadium is not full & tv revenues went down during the season as the team’s performance declined.

        Someone at Rogers may have figured out that a winning team would increase ticket sales & tv ratings.

        Don’t forget it took 5 years for MLSE to destroy the TFC fan base & realize no one would buy tickets to the games with the team being worst in the league.

        TFC finally cut ticket prices for 2013 after the fans deserted them.

  5. I agree you with Stoeten. All you to do is look back to the early 90′s once the Dome was built and especially the two WS years. Teams are always going to have their core fans and that’s no different than any other business.

    Management would be ecstatic if they managed to add another 500,000 to 1,000,000 million casual fans this year. I look at casual fans like the tide that raises all boats. They’re the first step in building a larger base of core fans.

  6. If obstacle courses were a sport I wouldn’t watch them live or on television. Now if exotic dancing were a sport I’d watch all the time. Rogers should become a trendsetter by starting a professional exotic dancong league. Toronto would whip Boston and New York’s ass in that sport for sure, not to mention with all the great young talent around they could always keep the payroll low.

  7. Glad to see we’re all so concerned with Rogers bottom line. Because, as we’ve been told a million times before, they won’t carrot without stick.

  8. I think this is also a point about attendance related revenue. How many of you spend the same if you go to 1 or 2 games a year vs seasons tix? I pay $100 for tix for a whole season, may buy 1 beer and bring in dinner from outside. But people who are casual fans pay full price, get shitcanned on $11 beers, and buy merch. Lots of those people vs. me is a lot more money for Rogers.

    • @ ernie whitt.

      I spend 1280 for the flexpack tickets plus at least anothe 1,000 on food souvenirs etc…

      I have been cutting back on beer purchases at the stadium & go for dinner at boston pizza before the game.

      A hidden value is the $40 buffett in the VIP section.

  9. when did stoeten get transferred to the PR department?

    • Way back when you last had something funny or interesting to say. So… it’s been a while.

  10. FIRST!!1

  11. Going to join the chorus and agree with you on this.

    The die hards will always be there, you have to win over the casual/fashionable fan to fill the building.

    I’d say the Leafs are an exception in Toronto, but perhaps it’s just that hockey hasn’t ‘gone out of style’. Over time, with Toronto’s changing demographics and the ability to watch (and gain fandom for) many other teams perhaps this changes.

    • comparing baseball to hockey is unfair.

      There are 41 home games in hockey with a capacity of what 19k? there are 81 home games in baseball with a max capacity of 50k.

      Not to mention, the leafs plain and simple do a better job of creating an ideal experience for business. a big chunk of the “fans” are suits at leaf games, that doesn’t happen with the jays. The don’t provide a good enough incentive or environment for rich pretentious arrogant fucks.

      you don’t need that big of a fanbase to make a hockey team successful, you do need a substantially bigger fanbase for baseball.

      • @dc


        During the first 10 years of the move to Rogers Centre They got companies to sign 10 year contracts for the suite boxes.

  12. Without mincing words, I’d like to speak on behalf of fans of all Toronto pro sports teams.

    I fucking hate Rogers.

  13. he’s not wrong, I’m just not sure he should be talking about it. Let the baseball operations deal with the media.

    Toronto has a good fanbase of baseball fans,they lack the casuals fan. Casual fans are usually synonymous with big market places(based on population) but toronto lacks that.

    The lack of casual fans could be a result of a few different reasons. The landscape of the population is ever changing and most new immigrants have no relationship with baseball, not winning doesn’t help that. The landscape geographically has changed with a lot of people moving well outside the city.

    Winning, playoffs, excitement will all change this. So he’s really not saying anything out of the ordinary or revolutionary

  14. Just think back a week ago to the US presidential elections. Replace “fashionable fans” with “undecided swing state voters”. I don’t have the data, but a reasonable person would conclude that in the last two weeks of the election the majority of campaign resources were not aimed at the secured base, but rather those who would put them over the top.

    This is a strategy that you’ll find in war (in attaining additional land), politics (in getting additional votes or contributions), and business (in increasing margins or revenue).

    Everybody knows this, but unlike war and politics, where there is a payoff in your side winning, in business you don’t say things like this and have it get on the public record. In sports you only have the “hearts and minds” of your fans/customers to a certain threshold that is much lower than the other instances mentioned.

    Looks like a classic case of an MBA grad who read the Art of War one too many times without doing the appropriate research by going down to the shop floor to see how the sausage is really made.

    Very sloppy in my opinion. You just can’t give any reason piss off your base, especially when your down in an era of so much entertainment content competition.

    Even more significantly, instead of pandering to such a fickle market like those of the “fashionable fan”, it would behoove Rogers, in my opinion, to focus on increasing it’s core fan base as a strategy. I could go on, but I’d have to start charging a fee for the information ;)

    As for the the amateur sport competition to pro sports I am in disbelief. Pelley is on the absolute wrong side of the argument. I would argue that due to market conditions regarding the demand for both broadcast content and athletes that in 10 years much amateur sport will be on the brink of extinction. Sure some networks will give it a shot because the content is/will be cheaper relative to pro sports, but few customers will be realized, and thus it will be short lived at best.

    There is an old expression that a fish stinks from the head down, in the case of the Jays, Pelley, in practice is the head.

    • @famous amazing guy.

      The Jays could get rid of Bautista,Edwin, Romero, & Morrow & replace them with 4 rookies.

      What would attendance/tv ratings be in 2013. ?

      I suspect attendance would drop to 1.5 million with a corresponding drop in tv ratings.

      Rogers has to get the casual fans back & turn some of them into regular fans & make them flex pack holders & season ticket holders etc.

      If the Jays are the hot ticket , companies will buy season tickets for their clients.

    • “in 10 years much amateur sport will be on the brink of extinction.”… quite the contrary: the very factors you point to (demand for broadcast content and demand for athletes) are driving the present explosion in amateur sports rights. Amateur sporting events are often of local interest only, but of relatively large interest locally. This formula is bread & butter in ad-supported businesses; small local papers are the most profitable print businesses remaining (and they are meaningfully profitable). Add in the fact that sports are overwhelmingly consumed live (less than half of the DVR shift for most shows winds up in the bankable ratings) and you have some very compelling content. Like lots of sports, really. So this brings us to the key question: cost. Oh what is that elephant sitting there? The athletes don’t get paid? Well now… FREE FUCKING TALENT. Bank it.

      • “FREE FUCKING TALENT. Bank it.”

        I’m guessing that’s what Pelley believes will happen as well. It makes sense on the surface, cheap content, but it my opinion in 10 years, nobody will want it.

  15. Well…goes without saying, Pelley.
    You’re gonna have your hardcore season-tix guys. But what you want to be is the place where everyone goes because it’s the hottest thing going right now.
    Jays are winning = everyone’s happy and on the bandwagon = let’s go to the Dome and watch the boys play = cha-ching for Rogers.
    The hardest part of that equation is the first line (like my dream retirement plan. Step A – win the lottery). I’m not saying there’s a direct and linear line between quality players and winning – but most often than not, quality players will put you in a position to win MOST nights.
    I don’t want to be Captain Obvious here…but it’s called “spending money to make money.” Yes, they can field a team of nobodies, and get their usual chunk of money off the usual 15-22 thousand rubes in the stands….or you can grab a Hamilton, Fielder, Darvish, Grienke-type marquee player or two, and make BUCKETS of money from the 30-40K people in the stands that will come because Rogers Center and the Jays is now The Place To Go.

    • @fastball.

      Agreed. When I retire, I look forward to spending several evening at the VIP Sections enjoying the roast beef buffet.& some fine adult liquid refreshments.

      Unfortunately, for the Jays , they have squandered the goodwill from the world series years, so they have to rebuild the fan base.

      They had some success last year. I was amused sitting next to some “casual fans” & try to explain the game to them.

      One thing Rogers has to do is to get proper wifi at the rogers centre.

      • “One thing Rogers has to do is to get proper wifi at the rogers centre.”

        The fact that they don’t is absolutely shocking. For a company that owns a fucking television and mobile network, you’d think they have some clue as to what their audience wants.

        Waaaay rather sit in front of my tv than sit in that piece of shit stadium.

        • @razor. I agree. It’s outrageous that I can barely post to this blog when I am at the game because my iphone won’t work properly at rogers centre.

          My daughter goes nuts because she loves texting her friends at the game bragging that she saw brett lawrie etc..

          This is a good marketing aspect that is ignored by Rogers.

          kids love to text /twitter these days where they are etc..

      • Oakville69 explaining the game to the casuals…that’ll keep them coming back

  16. Don’t forget packing a sweet and creepy Mo to the sport of choice as fashionable too in November. By the way, my Mo is so good I could even creep out Gary Glitter.

  17. Do we get to vote Pelley of the island if Rogers doesnt come through this winter?

  18. “Rogers’ Keith Pelley: The most important sports fans are the ones who go to games because it is fashionable.”

    A great example is the Tampa Bay Rays. They field competitive teams, but can’t seem to draw beyond presumably the hardcore fans.

    Their stadium and its location has something to do with it. Build a new stadium and more will come presumably, but not just because of a better park but because going to the stadium becomes a hot and fashionable thing to do.

    The novelty of the SkyDome was a huge part when we were selling out, with so many casual fans who were there just to say they’d been. The harder it becomes to get tickets, the more fashionable it is to go.

    In many ways it was the perfect storm as the Jays were fielding great teams at the same time. But that doesn’t seem to have helped Tampa Bay break through.

    • Dome was a factor…but the Jays were 3rd in AL attendance averaging 32K in their last year at the Ex.

      Building a winner will certainly increase attendance in Toronto, but there is this crazy factor that building a winner is not easy. So what’s the backup plan? How do you make the dome the place to be (blowing it up crosses my mind but I realize that isn’t an option)? There was certainly a lot of momentum going into this past season (I’d also like to add that next year’s season opener sales are ahead of the 2012 sales, so maybe there is still something to build upon). In the end I just hope the Jays don’t have to make PR moves over baseball moves (trading d’Arnaud while keeping a guy that has a very pretty face in the city) but I’m pretty sure this isn’t going to happen.

  19. [...] Of Course Keith Pelley Is Right: Speaking of cartels, someone from Fucking Rogers, which owns the Blue Jays, opened their mouth to say that the most important baseball fans are the ones who go because it’s fashionable. This, of course, pissed off fans. [...]

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