SBD/December 21, 2011/2011 Year in Review

SBD/SBJ's Top Sports Business Stories Of The Year, Part Two

The SBD/SBJ editorial staff compiled the top sports business stories of '11, in no particular order. Today, we present five of them. See Tuesday's issue for five other top stories.

The NFL in September announced a $1.8B
per year deal with ESPN starting in '14

NFL HITS MEDIA JACKPOT: The NFL revenue machine just keeps on growing. After announcing an eye-popping $1.8B per year deal with ESPN in September, the league neared deals with CBS, Fox and NBC that will see each broadcaster renew its NFL package for at least an average of $1B per year -- an across-the-board increase of more than 60%. Look next for the NFL to carve out another Thursday night package to sell. Thanks to the latest deals, the NFL will wind up generating close to $7B annually in national media revenue starting in ‘14, representing an amazing $220M payout per team.

NBC GOES ALL IN WITH OLYMPICS: The IOC spent almost three years courting networks to bid on its U.S. television rights. Its decision to postpone the process until ‘11 because of the economy turned out to be a boon for the organization. Just weeks after losing its top exec and Olympic champion, Dick Ebersol, NBC bid $4.4B for the rights through ‘20, blowing away its competitors by more than $800M. The deal gives the IOC financial security for the next decade, and NBC the continuity of keeping the Olympic rings tied to the Peacock. Now, can NBC make its massive bet pay off?

TIME WARNER CABLE PLANTS A MAJOR STAKE IN SPORTS: When Time Warner Cable picked off the rights to the Lakers early this year, the cable operator sent a message to every sports right holder in a TWC territory: The company is open for business. Under the direction of Melinda Witmer, the company launched a Time Warner Cable Sports division with high-profile executives David Rone, Mark Shuken and Dan Finnerty. There is no doubt that the company has a seat at the table. It has been monitoring the Dodgers bankruptcy, talking about buying Cleveland RSN SportsTime Ohio and helping to launch the Pac-12’s suite of seven channels.

UFC on Fox financial package reportedly worth
average of $90M a year for seven years

UFC FIGHTS TO THE FOREFRONT: The day before a blockbuster event that drew 55,724 fans to Rogers Centre in Toronto in April, UFC President Dana White sounded like Nostradamus. “By the end of this year we’ll do something even bigger,” White said cryptically. “We’re going to blow you away.” Six months later, “UFC on Fox” promos aired prominently during World Series telecasts and on NFL Sundays, hailing a watershed for the hot property. The network’s financial package, which sources placed at an average of $90M a year for seven years, more than doubled the reported $35M a year that the UFC had received from incumbent Spike. Fox’ proven ability to take a fringe sport and expose it to the mainstream was attractive to the UFC, which still sees itself as a property in the early stages of growth.

FARMERS FIELD TAKES ROOT: AEG’s proposed football stadium in downtown L.A., despite being anything but a definite, pulled off a 30-year, $600M naming-rights deal with Farmers Insurance. Farmers Field still awaits a final funding plan, all the necessary government approvals and, not the least of all, an NFL tenant. But the deal helped reinvigorate a naming-rights market that later in the year saw MetLife align with New Meadowlands Stadium.
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