Neither should be considered much of a bombshell. A six percent decline in ticket sales is a reasonable estimate, but it’s probably a high end guess if the economy doesn’t show any signs of recovery by August or September. Unemployment is going to be high well past that point, so the teams will have to rely on consumer confidence more than anything else.
The other key question regarding ticket sales is what the prices of those ~75 million tickets will be. MLB is saying that two-thirds of teams have either cut or frozen ticket prices; once some teams fall out of contention, we’ll probably start seeing even greater cuts. So regardless of how many total tickets are sold, we should see a bigger decline in gate receipts than in attendance — at least for the 28 teams that aren’t playing their home games in a brand new stadium in New York City.
On the media side, this has been the area I’ve been most bullish on both in the short- and long-terms. The media industry is struggling because the old formats are becoming harder and harder to monetize. But the great majority of people still watch sports games the same way they did thirty years ago: live, and with commercials. That makes it a tremendous ad platform, particularly relative to taped programming or written content. As it gets harder to reach a mass audience, marketers will love sports more and more.
Of course, for 2009, this will only matter for teams that own their own RSNs, as well as MLB Network. But it’s a good sign moving forward, especially for teams that have local TV contracts coming due in the next year or two.
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