There are several key indicators in Major League Baseball that speak to its economic health. At the end of each season, attendance and television viewership numbers are talked abundantly.
But, the one that likely matters most is revenues for the league. Last year, those gross revenues totaled $7 billion a 6.1 percent increase from the year prior when they were $6.6 billion. All told, baseball hasn’t seen a revenue decline since 2002 when revenues were $3.6 billion, dropping from $3.7 billion the year prior.
(See MLB Revenues Grown From $1.4 Billion in 1995 to $7 Billion in 2010 for details of each year)
Some may be wondering, with the economic woes of the Dodgers and Mets, could an increase in revenues for 2011 be in danger?
Attendance for 2011 is likely to be flat compared to 2010. As it stands now, the league is running ahead of last season, but by less than one percent. As of Monday, average attendance was 30,230 compared to 30,135 on the same date in 2010. But, steep attendance losses by the Dodgers, and to a lesser extent the Mets are different than having the Indians, Brewers, or Pirates make up the difference. Ticket prices are higher for the Dodgers and Mets, and with Los Angeles, the per capacity numbers are huge. The declines have chewed into Dodger Stadium’s 56,000 seating capacity.
All told, the Mets are projected to lose between $60-$70 million this year. The Dodgers could be in the same position. According to court documents, the club posted net losses totaling $4.24 million in June alone on revenue of $38.5 million. Losses could run as high as $30 million this year.
But, if there’s something that is saving the league, it’s this: centralized revenues continue to increase.
No, MLB is not the NFL. It does not enjoy massive national television contracts that floats every team’s bottom line. But, baseball does continue to see growth in MLB Advanced Media, subscriptions to MLB Extra Innings, growth of MLB Network, and importantly, escalators in national television deals.
According to league sources, there is nothing to think that MLB will not, once again, see record revenues. While they would not predict what league revenues will be, we can. Based upon prior growth, don’t be surprised if gross revenues for MLB hit between $7.2-$7.4 billion for 2011.
Maury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey, and is a contributor to Forbes SportsMoney blog.. He is available as a freelance writer. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network (select his name in the dropdown provided).
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