SBD/30/Leagues Governing Bodies

FOR THE NBA PLAYOFFS, ARE EMPTY SEATS SIGNS OF DISCONTENT?

          The NBA "has grown into" a $2B "sports juggernaut in
     the last decade," and Michael Jordan is "in no small way
     responsible" for its 10-20% annual revenue growth, according
     to CNBC's Mike Hegedus, who examined issues facing the
     league on "The Edge."  Hegedus: "But as salaries have gone
     up, so have ticket prices, leading to something new in the
     playoffs -- empty seats."  The Marquee Group's Lee Berke:
     "In the first games of the first round of the NBA Playoffs,
     up to half of the arenas were not sold out."  Berke says
     that while the league is "still very healthy," issues such
     as ticket increases, "bouts with image problems" and a
     potential lockout have "hurt [its] position with the fans." 
     Starter's Steve Raab, on whether sales of licensed
     merchandise have been affected: "You see the consolidation
     at retail, you see the consolidation among licensees.  I
     think that shakeout is going to happen, and I think the
     strong will still be here."  Sara Lee's Champion termed NBA
     sales "flat," but said it will "change its approach." 
     Champion's Nicole Blake: "That means having increasing stock
     on the shelves, quicker turnaround times, quicker shipping
     times, and being able to respond so that the fans can find
     NBA merchandise they want to purchase where and when they
     want to buy it."  Starter's Raab, on future sales: "It
     really depends on who wins this year.  If the Bulls win
     again, I would expect that sales will probably be on par
     with last year.  If it's another team, depending on who the
     team is, you may see something close, you may see a big drop
     off -- it just depends on the market" ("The Edge," 4/29). 

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