As we reported on Monday, Major League Baseball was projecting that their revenues would surpass $6 billion this year, a staggering sum when looking at how MLB had portrayed itself less than ten years ago. In 2002, Commissioner Selig reported that they were running in the red, and said at one point that one of the Tigers would not make payroll (although quickly disavowed by COO Bob DuPuy). The team had borrowed from baseball's central credit line to make payroll several times over the course of a decade.
Flash-forward to today, where MLB is pulling in revenues at a rate that would be the envy of any sports league, and that may mean the NFL shortly. As Chris Isidore of CNN/Money reports, baseball will soon catch the NFL as the money leader in sports:
"We have seen a healthy increase in every one of our revenue streams," [MLB COO Bob] DuPuy said. "We saw about a half-billion (dollars of sales) from sources that really didn't exist 10 years ago."
DuPuy said he expects revenue growth in the single digit percentage range in 2008 and an even bigger jump in revenue in 2009, when two new stadiums are set to open in New York. The Baseball Channel is also due to start operations that year.
"It's a good story. It's one of the reasons we think that healthy rise will continue," DuPuy said.
As for The MLB Network (the name being considered at this time), it will be the largest cable channel launch in history with a projected subscriber base of over 47 million. MLB has tried not to crow about the channel launch, but the news from the NFL this week had to add to a bit of chest puffing by MLB. The Sports Business Daily reports that the “NFL Network is in 15 million fewer homes today than the league had projected when it launched the channel in November '03.” The NFL had hoped to be in 50 million television households by now, but instead is at 35 million. While profitable, the sizable decrease in subscribers would seem to suggest lower projected revenues for the NFL.
So, with that, is it possible that baseball may once again become the National Pastime? Look for a report from me shortly on Baseball Prospectus that examines the interest in MLB by way of television may help determine that answer.
Maury Brown is the founder and president of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football and The Biz of Basketball (The Biz of Hockey will be launching shortly). He is also an author for Baseball Prospectus.and is an available writer for other media outlets.
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