NBA: Hurt by the Economy?

October 14th, 2008

By: Jason Fleming 




The Economy and the NBA: The poor economic situation seems to be hitting the sporting world. The NBA has decided they needed to lay off about 80 workers, according to Commissioner David Stern.

"We made a decision some months ago that the economy was going to be a bit wobbly, so we began a belt-tightening that will result in a work-force reduction of about 9 percent domestically," Stern said Sunday, speaking before an NBA preseason game at London's O2 arena.

"There is a season-ticket renewal rate decline, and new sales are also being hit," he said. "My guess is when [the regular season] kicks off, we will be down modestly in season ticket sales."

That's an interesting forecast when juxtaposed with history. In the past when there have been economic downturns like this sports and entertainment have been the last to feel any effect, and sometimes spending in that area actually goes up. The idea is sports and movies are cheaper alternatives to big ticket purchases or travel, so people still want a little something to distract them from reality, but in smaller, cheaper doses – and as expensive as it is to go to a game, it's still cheaper than a ski weekend or flying anywhere.

Today, though, that doesn't seem to be the expectation. Baseball and the NFL have both discussed internally and externally about the probability of making less money in the next year or two, not just the NBA. Many expect this time to be different, that spending on sports will go down along with spending in general instead of maintaining.

Why is that?

There are a few reasons, in this writer's opinion, most notably the prevalence of so many alternative outlets to see the games. There are more games televised nationally than ever before, so the casual fan can catch all the big names as much as they like.

If you are more than a casual fan, you can get NBA League Pass in most cable packages for $160. If someone would normally take a family of four to a game, which might even cost more than access to every televised game during the season. Plus, with League Pass you get access to games online as well.

And what happens if you miss a game? In the past you read about it in the paper, but now you can watch highlights online and read about from any number of outlets, blogs, and discuss it with other fans on various forums and messageboards.

In short, if you are a fan you can get access to info, commentary and highlights much more easily than you ever could, so if you are feeling a bit of a budget crunch there isn't any need to spend your money at the stadium to satisfying your hoops craving. In a good economy that doesn't really hurt the league because people will always want to see the games and cheer with fellow fans, but in times like now, it hurts.

What about you? Will you be spending less on the NBA this season? More? The same? Drop a line in the comments and let us know.