SBD/Issue 138/MLB Season Preview

Even The Red Sox Face Uncertainty As Economy Haunts MLB Season

Red Sox Average Ticket Price On StubHub
Has Fallen About 22% Since '08
Retreating corporate sponsors, "waning television ratings, fretful retailers, and lagging premium seat sales all confront the Red Sox this year," as the recession has "dulled the passion of some fans and taken a toll on the team's bottom line," according to a front-page piece by Hohler & Abelson of the BOSTON GLOBE. The Red Sox have "rarely faced a stormier financial climate." Buffeted by the loss of "some corporate sponsors, including major partners Nikon and PC Connection, the Sox also face slumping sales of premium hospitality suites, a sharp drop last year in television ratings, and a fading fever for baseball among some patrons." The Red Sox also were "unable to renew smaller sponsorship contracts with Filene's Basement and Cambridge Eye Center while DHL downsized its deal with the team." They also have "taken a hit" from companies like Bank of America, which have "scaled back spending" on all sports marketing. Despite a ticket-price freeze, the team's ticket sales, "while still robust, are down a bit for the first time in recent years." Seats remain available for most games in April and "more than 30 games the rest of the season, suggesting" Fenway Park's MLB-record consecutive sellout streak of 469 games "could be in jeopardy." Also, NESN last season "lost a significant share of viewers," as regular-season ratings fell 20% from '07, while the net's pregame show dropped 33%. Since the Red Sox own 80% of NESN, the team's revenues "are affected by changes in advertising rates based on viewership" (BOSTON GLOBE, 4/5). In Boston, Thomas Grillo reports the average price of a Red Sox ticket on StubHub has fallen about 22% from last season, while bleacher seats for Thursday's game against the Rays are selling for as little as $22. Red Sox Exec VP and Chief Sales & Marketing Officer Sam Kennedy acknowledged that while "ticket sales are 'strong' the team is hurting when it comes to premier seating and corporate sales" (BOSTON HERALD, 4/6).

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