Profitable SNY not part of Mets sale

Neil Best (second from right) and other sports

Neil Best (second from right) and other sports business/media writers record a show at SNY. (Dec. 16, 2010) (Credit: SNY)

Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon said Friday that although a minority stake in the team is for sale, SportsNet New York, the network that carries most of the team's games, is off limits.

That is a crucial point, because as with many team-owned regional sports networks, the TV channel is more profitable and presumably more valuable than the team itself.

That is believed to be the case with both the Mets' SNY and the Yankees' YES Network, companies that earn a predictable income without fretting the vagaries of wins, losses and player salaries.

The owners of the Mets and of Sterling Entertainment Enterprises, which controls a little less than 70 percent of SNY, are the same people, but the team and channel are separate entities that can be sold (or not) separately. The rest of SNY is owned by two cable giants: Time Warner controls about a quarter and Comcast a little less than 10 percent.

YES is believed to be more valuable than SNY, but the Yankees own only about a third of it. Other owners of YES include Goldman Sachs.

Even before selling ads, sports networks such as SNY, YES and MSG benefit from income that flows through cable and satellite companies in the form of monthly subscriber fees.

In the case of SNY, that figure is at least $300 million each year, most from the roughly 8.5 million homes in its primary distribution area.

If the Wilpons were willing to sell part of SNY, they presumably could generate more money more quickly, but for now, it appears their focus is exploring buyers only for part of their baseball team.

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