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).