Major League Baseball will see record revenues of $6.4 billion in 2008, breaking last year’s mark of $6.075 million. The increase of $325 million, however, is below league projections which had been mentioned as approximately $6.5 billion at the beginning of the season.
Despite the economy taking a severe hit this year and consumers being impacted in many ways by skyrocketing gas prices, MLB is still upbeat. As reported by Eric Fisher of the Sports Business Journal:
“Given the general state of the economy, even what’s happened this past week [in the investment banking industry], we’re still in good shape,” said MLB President Bob DuPuy last week. “It’s unlikely we’ll set another attendance record, but we did get one in the [affiliated] minor leagues, and looking at all of the various quantitative and qualitative measures, there’s clearly still very, very strong fan interest in the game.
“With the economy how it is, you always worry,” DuPuy continued. “We’re an entertainment vehicle and we rely on discretionary dollars. But everybody is generally satisfied where we are now, and we look forward to a great postseason.”
The high-water mark for revenues comes with the reality that MLB will miss breaking the all-time attendance record – something that had occurred in four consecutive years. The downturn came in a year in which Yankee Stadium saw increased attendance in response to this being its final year and the Washington Nationals got a bump in attendance from opening a new ballpark.
There are other indicators of hard economic times within some of the revenue streams within MLB. Fisher reports that merchandising sales are flat this year, even with the incredible interest in the All-Star Game in New York.
Television ratings are also feeling the hit at the national level. FOX has seen a drop 17 percent compared to last season at this time when baseball was entering the final two weekends of the season, and “games on ESPN and ESPN2 are both off their 2007 paces, and Turner was averaging a disappointing 645,000 viewers for its new Sunday afternoon national coverage.”
The strong growth area continues to be MLB Advanced Media. While revenues have not been formally disclosed, BusinessWeek reported in August that MLBAM brings in about $450 million per year, about half of which comes from live game streaming. According to Sports Business Journal, MLBAM set records in a number of areas for the digital media arm:
- Online ticket sales - 31.5 million and counting;
- All-Star Game votes cast - 262.6 million;
- Total multimedia consumption - 3.6 billion minutes through Aug. 31;
- Wireless page views - more than 450 million.