Wednesday, October 26, 2011

TV: The Driving Force Behind College Football

One of the main reasons college athletic conferences are pursuing expansion is money – in particular, TV money.  The Pac-12 Conference a couple months ago announced it will create a national TV network plus six regional affiliates.  The networks, which will generate millions of dollars for member schools, will carry about 850 conference events annually.

To see how a conference TV network can positively affect Pac-12 schools, look no further than Washington State.  The Cougars have the second-smallest operating revenue in the conference at just $39 million.  That’s well below the Pac-12 average of more than $60 million per school.  However, once the new TV revenue starts flowing in, Washington State could use part of the money to fund an $80 million renovation to its football stadium, which is the smallest in the conference.

Although realignment has gotten crazy, at least this Washington State move shows tangible results from the madness.

If realignment is maddening, this story is downright quirky.

In one of the more unusual sports business moves of the year, CBS, ESPN and NBC made a “three-network” TV rights trade.  The driving force behind for the deal was CBS, who wanted to show next week’s big Alabama-LSU showdown in primetime.  The problem was that CBS only has the right to one SEC primetime game per year, and the network already aired Alabama-Florida at night.  ESPN holds the conference’s remaining primetime rights.

Per the deal, ESPN is allowing CBS to show the game in primetime in exchange for “future considerations,” the TV equivalent of a player to be named later.  However, with the Alabama-LSU game moving from the 3pm time slot, CBS needed to find a new game.  So it dealt rights to the November 19 game between TCU and Colorado to NBC’s Versus channel for rights to tomorrow’s Army-Air Force game.

I like this move for several reasons.  First, kudos to CBS for thinking outside the box.  Getting Alabama-LSU moved to primetime should be huge for ratings.  ESPN, knowing that Arkansas-South Carolina will draw marginal interest at best, possibly has leverage to showcase a more high-profile SEC game next season.  Meanwhile, Versus gets a TCU game, which should draw more viewers than sub-.500 Air Force and Army.

Thought the deal may be complicated, the takeaway here is that rivals can always find a way to work together.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The World Series: A Tale of the (Financial) Tape

Game One of the World Series is tonight, and without knowing who will be crowned champion, here’s some of the things we can take away from the 2011 season.  Despite ongoing economic turbulence, league-wide attendance increased 0.8% over last season to 73.4 million, the most since 2008.  Thanks to sponsorship renewals from Bayer, Chevrolet and others, MLB gross revenues are at an all-time high of $7.5 billion+.

However, interest in this World Series could be slim compared to recent years.  This is just the third time since 1995 that neither World Series team has a top ten payroll.  Also hurting matters, the top seven most popular MLB teams, according to Harris Poll data, were eliminated before the League Championship Series or didn’t make the playoffs.  Additionally, TV ratings for both MLB League Championship Series were down double-digits compared to last year.  Hurt by rain delays, postponements and day games, Fox’ coverage of the ALCS was down 20% from the 2010 NLCS.  TBS’ NLCS telecasts fell 43% from the network’s ALCS coverage last year.

But what does the World Series mean to a team?

In the cases of the Rangers and Cardinals, winning (or even losing) the World Series could mean $30-50 million over the next five years in incremental ticket, merchandise and sponsorship sales.  Both teams have room for improvement on ticket sales.  The Rangers played to a stadium at 74% of capacity, while the Cardinals played to 89% capacity.

If the Cardinals play through the end of the World Series, St. Louis projects economic impact from the playoffs to exceed $56 million.  Each game in the division and league championship series was worth $5.2 million.  World Series games likely are worth $1-2 million more.

Here's a financial breakdown of the World Series:

St. Louis Cardinals

Wins: 90

Payroll: $105.4 million

Value: $518 million

Value % increase after last World Series appearance: 7% (2006 World Series champs)
     *Below MLB average growth of 14%, but Cardinals saw big increase the prior year when the opened new Busch Stadium
Operating income: $19.8 million

Texas Rangers

Wins: 96

Payroll: $92.3 million

Value: $561 million

Value % increase after last World Series appearance: 24% (2010 World Series runner-up)
     *Above league average of 7%, but inflated by bankruptcy auction that took place mid-season
Operating income: $22.6 million


St. Louis Cardinals: $1.17 million

Texas Rangers: $961,000


St. Louis Cardinals: $5.76 million

Texas Rangers: $5.84 million

Operating income/win

St. Louis Cardinals: $222,000

Texas Rangers: $235,000

**All values, operating incomes according to Forbes

Friday, October 14, 2011

Rome Wasn't Built in a Day

Tired with slow moving NBA collective bargaining negotiations?  Delonte West is.  Since the free agent can’t sign with a new team until the lockout’s over, he instead took a job at a furniture warehouse in Maryland. 

Worried about life after basketball?  That’s top of mind for Brandon Jennings.  The Milwaukee Bucks guard has been interning in Under Armour’s footwear department since the summer.  Jennings goes into the office regularly and sits in on meetings with top executives.

Things have gotten so out of hand with the NBA season on hold that even the King, LeBron James, is flirting with the idea of playing in the NFL.  Never mind the fact the last time he put on pads and a helmet was for a State Farm commercial.

Furniture stores?  Internships?  The NFL?

With the first two weeks of the NBA season cancelled, and much more of it in jeopardy, the absence of basketball is causing players to think and do crazy things.  The craziest of them all?  The notion that someway, somehow, the players might walk away from the negotiating table to form their own league.  There’s a better chance of LeBron catching the winning touchdown in February’s Super Bowl.

Despite what the players may think, starting a league from scratch is much more complicated than throwing together the occasional exhibition game.  They’d need to find places to play, and a majority of arenas are owned or operated by NBA teams.  They’d need to generate enough revenue to cover salaries – remember this dispute is about money – and players made a collective $2.176 billion last season.  They’d also need to hire a couple-thousand person support staff to do everything from producing TV broadcasts to selling concessions on game nights, as well as experts in traditional management functions such as corporate sales, international affairs, marketing and retail operations.

They say Rome wasn’t built in a day.  Well, neither was the NBA.  It’ll take several years and boatloads of money for players to create a successful, rival league.

Their best option?  Drop the pipedream and stay at the negotiating table.

Don't Call it a Comeback...

I been here for years!