Here's our look at the intersection of sports and business this week:
"Moneyball" Hits Theaters
From a studio exec’s perspective, the timing of the "Moneyball" release is a perfectly executed double play. Not only is baseball gearing up for its peak season, as the regular season winds down and the postseason and World Series beckon, but the movie’s on-screen competition this weekend was relatively weak. The only other major motion pictures that opened on Friday were "Dolphin Tale," a story about a rescued dolphin; and "Abduction," a thriller that drew the video gaming crowd. For the thinking person, "Moneyball’s" the pick.
Baseball movies, however, have traditionally not performed as well at the box office as other sports films. The highest grossing baseball movie to date is "A League of Their Own," pulling in a lifetime gross of $107 million. That doesn’t even crack the top ten of all sports movies. In fact, only one other baseball movie has made more than $65 million in domestic box office receipts. As for Michael Lewis’ other sports hit, "The Blind Side," that made more than $250 million.
Bottom Line: With the amount of money that’s been put into this project, plus Oscar buzz and Brad Pitt in the starring role, "Moneyball" has the potential to become the most successful baseball movie of all time.
College Realignment Chaos
College conference realignment talks won’t be ending anytime soon. So far, Pittsburgh and Syracuse are moving to the ACC; Texas A&M is going to the SEC; and the Pac-12 considered expanding, then decided against it. Things are so crazy that the Big East and Big 12 may merge just to stay intact.
Conferences traditionally exist for several reasons, among them: they assist in scheduling, reduce travel costs and create rivalries. However, the only thing that matters these days is money. If a school can make more money by switching conferences, they can cover higher travel costs, fund more sports and pay for facility renovations. Consider Pitt and Syracuse. They’re going from the Big East, whose TV contract is worth $200 million over 6 years to the ACC, whose contract is worth $1.7 billion over 12 years.
Bottom Line: If there’s a silver lining in the chaos, it’s that the closer we get to four 16-team super-conferences, the more likely we are to finally having a college football playoff. And if money is all that matters, imagine how much that will bring in.
The State of the NBA Lockout
And the NBA lockout drags on. Though this isn’t the first time NBA Commissioner David Stern and Players Association head Billy Hunter have fought over a labor deal, never before have they faced such a large “issue gap.”
First, the revenue split. The NBA made more than $4 billion last fiscal year, but Stern claims the league still lost $300 million. Owners want to change the 57-43 percent revenue breakdown that currently favors the players. The sides remain at least $500 million apart.
Second, the NBA wants to limit the length of guaranteed contracts to 3-4 years, down from their current maximum length of 5-6. In this case, NBA contracts would look more like the less guaranteed NFL deals than the more guaranteed MLB ones.
Finally, small-market owners insist on including some device to keep a superstar with his existing team – similar to the "franchise tag" in the NFL. Doing so would limit high-profile free agents from jumping to bigger markets, a problem that seems to plague the NBA more than the other major sports leagues.
Bottom Line: The NBA on Friday canceled 43 preseason games, one day earlier than the 1998 lockout timeline. Last time around, regular season games started being canceled on October 14. Start calendar watching.
MLB Regular Season Ends, Events Continue
Major League Baseball’s regular season might be over, but that doesn’t mean stadiums are turning the lights off on teams that didn’t make the playoffs. On October 1, Wrigley Field is hosting its first-ever movie night. Fittingly, the movie on the schedule is "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," filmed 25 years ago in and around Chicago. Groupon is sponsoring the event, which will include a Guinness World Records attempt to have the most people sing “Danke Schoen.”
The Cubs aren’t the only MLB team using their stadium to generate revenue in the off season. The Cleveland Indians are bringing back "Snow Days," the popular winter carnival the team held last off season at Progressive Field. In its first year, the event drew more than 50,000 fans and revenue in the high six-figures. This year’s Snow Days will include a college hockey match between Michigan and Ohio State.
Bottom Line: With their location, size and open dates, more sports stadiums should be booking events in the off season.
College Football Weekend
Saturday’s are synonymous with college football. But beyond the big business, high rankings, stats and highlights, there lives a subsector of fans equally as infatuated with the overall gameday experience. And because college towns are so unique, no two gameday scenes are quite alike.
A new website hopes to capitalize on that uniqueness. Launched this football season, Gamedayr.com covers the College Football Gameday Experience, or as they call it, “The Game Outside the Game.” Gamedayr.com focuses on the gameday culture, providing complete tailgating guides and travel information for the top 70 collegiate destinations across the country. The site also has a social media platform, allowing for user contribution, discussion and interaction.
Bottom Line: If you’re going to visit a college town for a football weekend, you might as well take if the full experience.
Rick Horrow is the "Sports Professor," and is the Sports Business Analyst for Fox Sports. He has been the Visiting Expert on Sports Law at the Harvard Law School, and has authored "When the Game Is on the Line" and "Beyond the Scoreboard: An Insider's Guide to the $750 Billion Business of Sports." His show "Beyond the Box Score" is posted on a weekly basis on FoxSports.com, and the latest emerging trends in sports business can be found at www.horrowsports.com.