Last week, the Wisconsin athletic director sent out a letter to supporters that the university would lose 60-70 million dollars this year due to the reduction in football games being played in the fall. If the season is cancelled, the losses will top 100 million just for the fall. That may be an exaggeration, but there is no question that a cancellation of the college football season will cost the big-time college programs tens of millions in revenue. It is a billion-dollar industry.
ZeroHedge pointed out that ESPN has a billion dollars in ad space to sell for this fall’s college football season. They also have ad space for other sports as well, but college football is the prime mover of ad space. It is unlikely that ad buyers will want to buy ads when ESPN is running replays of card games this fall. ESPN’s primary income stream is mandatory cable fees, they net close to nine billion in fees every year, but a billion dollars in ad revenue still counts for something.
Of course, everyone knows no one is watching ESPN at the moment, but that has no impact on the cable fees. The way it works is a service like Hulu of Comcast pays ESPN nine dollars per month for each subscriber to their service. These deals are not contingent on viewership. As ZeroHedge points out, the language in these deals does not require the content provider to deliver particular content. As long as ESPN is beaming something, they get paid for it.
Even so, the mass disruption of sports is going to have an impact on the economic model of professional sports. Out of work people will begin to look at that cable bill and wonder if it makes sense. Cable providers will begin to look for ways to get out from under their ESPN deal. For its part, ESPN will not be paying the leagues for content when the leagues are shutdown. Like the economy as a whole, professional sport is about to experience an unprecedented jolt.
Way back when the lock downs were on the table, the sober minded warned that you can’t lock everyone in their homes and not have consequences. The modern economy is a highly complicated balancing act that has evolved to produce increasingly efficiency, along with the retail excess. Even small disruptions can upset the balance within supply chains resulting in unexpected outcomes. Start turning off large bits of it and before long the whole thing starts to crash.
The first glimpse of this may be what is happening with sports. Major League Baseball is the first to re-open, but it is quickly becoming a disaster. The empty parks make the television product less than compelling and now games are being cancelled as players test positive for the virus. The NBA is struggling to keeps its knuckleheads inside the compound where they plan to play their games. The NFL is seeing droves of players sit out the upcoming season for fear of the virus.
The thing no one dares mention is the impact this lock down is having on interest in spectator sports. Being a sports fan is like being a smoker. Part of the dependency is the ritual and structure of it. The smoker takes a break every hour to smoke, collect his thoughts and get the nicotine hit. The football fan has their weekend in the fall, where they have scheduled social activities around games. Like the smoker, the sports fan builds their life around the habit.
People who quit a vice like smoking or drinking note that they also quit the social scene that goes with it. They lose touch with Sally from accounting who they used to take smoke breaks with every day. The people at the bar are no longer a part of their life. That’s what will happen with sports. Those weekends in the fall will be filled with other things and after the withdrawal pains subside, the habit will be lost. People who cut cable know this experience. In time, you don’t miss it.
This is not idle speculation. It has been known for a long time in the sports world that the recovery time after a work stoppage is very long. When a sports league shuts down due to labor strife, it takes years for the fans to return. It’s not because they are mad at the greedy players and owners. The fans simply find other things to do with their time and many of them drift away entirely. Millions have probably broken the habit already and that is before the hate whitey lectures were added.
There is one final piece to this puzzle. The growth of sports entertainment has tracked the arc of the Baby Boom generation. Look at attendance figures for sports in the 1960’s and 1970’s, before Boomers were dominating the market. Ball parks rarely sold out and the audience for televised product was limited. In the 1980’s as the Boomers took over the marketplace, sports boomed. When they could play tennis, professional tennis was huge. Then it was golf that had a boom.
The fact is, the sports entertainment model was built for and on the Baby Boomer generation, which is now entering its power down cycle. Boomers are retiring and that means down-sizing their lives. The major sports leagues are facing a demographic reality that cannot be overcome with happy talk about diversity. Non-whites don’t spend like whites and they cannot sustain an economic model built for whites. What happened to California is what is coming for sports entertainment.
This demographic cliff has been known to the sports leagues for a long time, which is why they happily throw in with the hate-whitey stuff. Sure, many of the principles really do hate white people, but much of it driven by the carnival barker’s belief in his ability to will an audience into existence. They really do think they can cast the same spell on the brown hordes that they cast on white people and get the same result. The virus panic and cultural revolution will put those theories to the test.
It is hard to see how the old sports entertainment model survives the current crisis. That doe not mean these leagues fold or that sports entertainment dies out. It’s just that the old model was built for an old America, one that no longer exists. On the other hand, sports entertainment has been a vital part of keeping whitey under control. Something will have to be done to reestablish the mind control device known as sportsball. Perhaps part of woke America will be mandatory sports watching by recalcitrant whites.
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