The Major League Baseball playoffs began Wednesday with a triple-header of games telecast from Tampa Bay, Philadelphia and the Twin Cities of Minnesota. All games were available on the cable channel TBS. Tropicana Field in South Florida was not sold out for game 1 between Texas and Tampa Bay in a market that has been plagued by tiny crowds throughout the season.
The NFL has had six blackout games in the first four weeks of the 2010 season. Blackouts are mandated in the home TV market when teams fail to sell out the stadiums 72 hours before kickoff. This year the NFL is on pace for an increase over the 22 games blacked out last season, the highest number in five years. This year, cities with NFL play-off teams last year such as Cincinnati, San Diego and Phoenix, have all experienced blackouts. San Diego, the only NFL team in all of Southern California, won their division last year and has had both home games blacked out this year.
Both leagues are doing very well financially, despite the apparent hic-ups in baseball’s inability to feature all playoff games on network television and the NFL’s ticket sales on a 3-year downward trend. But it does tell you that this economy has had a negative effect on some of the strongest sports leagues and enterprises and not to give in the apocalyptic prognosis horse racing regularly endures during times like this.
According to figures released by Equibase Wednesday, September was a particularly bad month for horse racing with 12.5% less days of racing in 2010 compared to the same month a year ago. Declining foal crops have contributed to that and figure to become a larger problem in the next two years or three years. That's all pretty bad news for the horse racing industry.
Encouraging however, was the fact that U.S. wagering on horse racing declined only 6.4% which drove up the average amount wagered per race day by 6.8% to $1.73 million and the average daily purse distribution up nearly 3.7% to $185,500.
Less total revenue is never a very encouraging sign for a company or an industry, but it appears the product of horse racing becomes additionally attractive as the race days decline. How that effects the bottom line of the individual race tracks and horsemen on individual basis is difficult to determine with at least some expense data. So it such not be concluded all things are good in horse racing.
But television contracts and ticket sales are a major part of the revenue streams of big league baseball and football and those two leagues are taking their financial lumps along with horse racing and other major, minor and amateur sports.
The big league money coffers are considerably larger and pockets deeper than those of horse racing, and as such, are able to withstand many more lumps than horse racing could possible endure. That much is obvious.
I just wouldn’t be looking around the local race track for Chicken Little anytime soon – unless she’s in the entries of course. But that’s for another blog entirely.