From the desk of the publisher
On the occasion of our 20th anniversary of SportsBusiness Journal, it provides the opportunity to reflect on the early years when we came onto the scene. It was a time when the average ticket price to an MLB game was twenty bucks, and the cost of a 30-second commercial during the Super Bowl broadcast was only $1.3 million. You could build a new stadium for a professional franchise for just a couple hundred million dollars back in 1998 and buy the team itself for only $150 million! The NFL was selling its broadcast rights for just over $2 billion per year at that point in time, which today seems dirt cheap, and the great technological development in sports at the time was the yellow first-down line on TV that Sportvision developed and ESPN introduced in September of that year.
The internet was just beginning to gain traction in sports 20 years ago. And when compared to the rapid pace of change with the use of technology in sports today, looking back at the early years in our development, it’s almost inconceivable to think that several years after our launch — on the occasion of our inaugural World Congress of Sports in 2002 — that we actually had a panel titled: “The Internet: Is there a Future? And What Role Will this New Media Play in Sports,” with a lineup of speakers including Bob Bowman, Michael Rubin, Michael Levy, Tom Spock, John Drury and Geoff Reiss.
As I think back about what the sports industry was like in the early days of SBJ, I realize that there will be thousands of students working toward degrees in sports management who will be reading this anniversary issue who weren’t even born at the time of our launch! In 1998 only a few dozen colleges and universities offered sports business degrees and only a handful were truly established. Today well over 500 colleges and universities offer every conceivable degree in sports business, undergraduate and graduate alike.
Relatively soon after our launch, we began to find our footing in our quest to become “the weekly voice of sports business.” We started a series of “firsts” early in our development which continued over the years, including inaugural events and programs including Forty Under 40, World Congress of Sports, Sports Business Awards, Champions in Sports Business, and Game Changers: Women in Sports Business. We introduced our Colleges & Universities program, and our By The Numbers publication, which evolved into our Resource Guide Live database service (not to mention the inaugural edition for each of our other eight conference events, all of which are strong and growing!). As tempting as it would be to go back in time and reflect on each of those inaugural events and new services in this publisher’s letter, I’ll resist that urge. I will note, however, that it IS extremely gratifying to have watched some of the young talent recognized in our early Forty Under 40 classes — Adam Silver, Mark Lazarus, Joe Leccese, Mark Steinberg, Brian France, George Pyne and many others — go on to become the industry leaders of today.
Over the years, I have continued to be amazed at what a resilient and vibrant industry sports truly is. The ever-growing size of the deals has been staggering to witness — from television rights and sponsorship fees, to franchise values and facilities, which now have become major urban development projects. And few would have predicted the role that technology has played in the process and the numerous revenue streams that tech developments have yielded. And as I look back, I can’t express how proud I feel of the role we’ve played along the way. There’s no question that our daily/weekly coverage has added transparency to the sports industry and that our work has served to make all of the players in our industry be more accountable.
I’ve been incredibly blessed over the years to have an amazing team without whose dedication, creativity and hard work none of what we’ve achieved would have been possible! So — to all of the 85 SBJ, SBD, Resource Guide Live and conference group staffers — congratulations to YOU for achieving this milestone, and THANK YOU for your devotion and all of your tireless efforts that have gotten us to where we are today. Of our current staff of 85, 14 people have been working with us since the very first year in 1998: Mary Baranowski, Misty Berry, Martin Bounds, Burt Cobe, Chris Hixenbaugh, Dan Kaplan, Bill King, John Lombardo, Abe Madkour, Bill Magrath, Liz Mullen, Ross Nethery, Tom Stinson and myself. A special congratulations to each of you for your steadfast loyalty over the past 20 years.
Lastly and most importantly, I’d like to thank ALL OF YOU, our readers, for your trust and ongoing support over the years. We are aware of the huge responsibility that we have in providing you breaking news and analysis — over 250 pages a week, including all of our SBJ/SBD coverage — and we don’t take that responsibility lightly. Also, a HUGE THANKS to our advertisers and sponsors of our conferences and events. Without your support, none of what we do would be possible. We could not be more grateful for your role in helping us accomplish so much.