Is it a bubble about to burst?
If the U.S. sports business has two mainstays, they are the National Football League and ESPN, the dominant league and pre-eminent television network in a $60 billion industry. Yet both are facing serious challenges, with the NFL confronting a drop in television ratings and ESPN grappling with a decline in subscribers as fans find alternate ways to watch their favorite sports. Some observers view these trends as warning signs that the decades-long expansion of sports’ popularity – and profitability – is about to end. Others disagree, saying the industry can adapt to changing fan preferences and remain prosperous because of strong interest in its basic product.
Here are some of the key takeaways:
The advent of smartphones and streaming services has cost ESPN more than 12 million subscribers and $1 billion in lost revenue in the past six years.
The NFL suffered an 8 percent decline in its television viewership last season and is cutting down on the number of in-game commercials in response.
The fraught relationship between sports and gambling will enter a new phase when a pro hockey team moves into Las Vegas in 2017 and an NFL franchise follows suit by 2019.
Resources for Further Study
Miller, James Andrew, and Tom Shales, “Those Guys Have All the Fun: Inside the World of ESPN,” Little, Brown, 2011. Two veteran journalists trace the growth of the cable television sports network ESPN from its founding in 1979 through its rise to riches and influence.
Sperber, Murray, “Shake Down the Thunder: The Creation of Notre Dame Football,” Henry Holt and Company, 1993. A college professor with access to legendary coach Knute Rockne’s papers traces the formation of an amateur sports dynasty of prestige, profit and power.
Steinberg, Leigh, with Michael Arkush, “The Agent: My 40-Year Career Making Deals and Changing the Game,” Thomas Dunne Books, 2014. The one-time superagent of sports – and the model for the movie “Jerry Maguire” – recounts his path-breaking career as the negotiator for first-round draft choices in the National Football League.
Zimbalist, Andrew, “Circus Maximus: The Economic Gamble Behind Hosting the Olympics and the World Cup,” Brookings Institution Press, 2016. In an updated paperback version of one of his many books, a longtime sports industry contrarian explores the risks and broken promises involved when cities or nations host major global sports events.
Bonesteel, Matt, “In surprise move, Supreme Court says it will take on New Jersey sports-betting case,” The Washington Post, June 27, 2017, http://tinyurl.com/
Gillette, Felix, “The NFL Was a Sure Thing for TV Networks. Until Now,” Bloomberg.com, Nov. 3, 2016, http://tinyurl.com/
Gonzalez, Roger, “Report: USA, CONCACAF want 2026 World Cup bid confirmed by FIFA soon,” CBSSports.com, April 11, 2017, http://tinyurl.com/
Ourand, John, “Taking the pulse of ESPN,” Sports Business Journal, June 26, 2017, http://tinyurl.com/
Saracevic, Al, “Warriors reveal long-term Chase Center season-ticket plan,” San Francisco Chronicle, July 19, 2017, http://tinyurl.com/
White, Gordon S. Jr., “N.C.A.A. Telecast Rights on Football Struck Down,” The New York Times, Sept. 16, 1982, http://tinyurl.com/
Reports and Studies
Bushnell, Henry, “Ranking the potential 2026 World Cup host cities and stadiums, from 1 to 49,” Yahoo News, Aug. 18, 2017, http://tinyurl.com/
Good, Andrew, “When it comes to women in sports, TV news tunes out,” USC News, June 5, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/
Parker, Clifton B., “Sports stadiums do not generate significant local economic growth, Stanford expert says,” Stanford News, July 30, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/
Yanity, Molly, “Sports Journalism Programs Rise, But Can They Take the High Road?” MediaShift, Sept. 2, 2014, http://tinyurl.com/
The Next Step
Daily Fantasy and Betting
Conway, Tyler, “Ex-MLB Commissioner Fay Vincent Says Sports Gambling Likely to Be Legalized Soon,” Bleacher Report, Aug. 4, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/
Kirkham, Chris, and Ezequiel Minaya, “DraftKings, FanDuel Call Off Merger,” The Wall Street Journal, July 13, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/
Purdum, David, and Ryan Rodenberg, “Future of sports betting: the marketplace,” ESPN, May 4, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/
Growth of Major League Soccer
Belson, Ken, “As Appetite for Soccer in U.S. Grows, So Does M.L.S.,” The New York Times, Aug. 8, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/
deMause, Neil, “Is MLS A Ponzi Scheme?” Deadspin, Aug. 4, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/
Smith, Chris, “How Heineken Is Taking Over North American Soccer,” Forbes, Aug. 16, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/
“Boston Sports Journal Launches With Subscription-Based Platform,” CBS Boston, July 24, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/
Brustein, Joshua, “As ESPN Falters, Sports Startup Chases Fans Tired of ‘Old Fluff’,” Bloomberg Businessweek, July 24, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/
Thompson, Derek, “ESPN Is Not Doomed,” The Atlantic, May 1, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/
Abbruzzese, Jason, “Sports fans finally have a streaming TV bundle, but you’d better love soccer,” Mashable, July 20, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/
Perez, Sarah, “What we know about CBS’s upcoming streaming service for sports,” TechCrunch, Aug. 8, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/
Snider, Mike, “Turner shoots for soccer success with Champions League on new streaming service,” USA Today, Aug. 17, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/
Big East Conference
655 Third Ave., New York, NY 10017
Headquartered in New York, the Big East Conference includes 10 schools and has a basketball-focused heritage.
Columbia University School of Professional Studies
203 Lewishon Hall, 2970 Broadway, MC 4119, New York, NY 10027
Columbia says its masters degree program in sports management “trains professionals in all sectors of the sports industry by teaching management skills with a global, analytics and digital focus.”
ESPN Plaza, 935 Middle Street, Bristol, CT 06010
A multinational, multimedia sports entertainment company with a portfolio of sports assets that includes more than 50 business entities. The company is 80 percent owned by ABC, an indirect subsidiary of the Walt Disney Company.
Fantasy Sports Trade Association
22 N. Carroll Street, Madison, WI 53703
The organization calls itself “the most comprehensive resource for and the official association of the fantasy sports industry.”
National Football League
280 Park Ave., 15th Floor, New York, NY 10017
The U.S. professional football league, with 32 teams.
Sports Business Daily/Global/Journal
120 W. Morehead St., Suite 120, Charlotte, NC 28202
Sports Business Daily has provided real-time industry news since 1994, concentrating on sports in the United States. Sports Business Global, also a daily, focuses on the world. Sports Business Journal, in addition to appearing online, is a weekly printed publication.
University of Michigan Center for Sport Management
1402 Washington Heights, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2013
The program says it “strives to be the preeminent center for researching sport industry organizations and disseminating knowledge concerning the practice of sport management.”