For the first time, sports media rights are expected to attract more revenue than ticket sales in 2018, according to researcher PriceWaterhouseCoopers. PwC predicts a 5.6% jump for 2018 sports media rights deals, a value totaling $20.1 billion, which should eclipse the estimated gate receipts by $579 million.
The increase is largely due to regional sports packages in Major League Baseball, the NBA and NHL. The only national broadcast deal that will change in 2018 is the NFL’s ‘Thursday Night Football’ package. The rising cost of broadcast rights fees at the regional level are largely why Fox is aiming to sell its RSN’s to Disney.
Sports media rights fees are expected to continue rising due to increased competition with digital companies such as Google, Facebook, and Amazon bidding for sports packages. Still, PwC anticipates linear TV networks to control the majority of national broadcast rights.
“Broadcast rights preservation … is likely to remain an industry priority through at least the next deal cycle to avoid potential further dilution of rights fees,” the PwCreport says. PwC’s expectation of the networks retaining broadcasting rights is in line with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell’s beliefs.
“Primarily our product’s on network television, which we believe in,” Goodell saidduring the July “GameChangers” confab at the Paley Center for Media. “We believe that its best days are still ahead, and it still draws a huge audience. So we want to be on all platforms, and we believe that our best days, as well as all of sports, are still ahead.”
Moving forward, expectations are, leagues will look to enter shorter rights contracts in hopes of taking advantage of market changes every couple of years.