When someone thinks of the top professional sports leagues in America, the results are limited to the “big four”, the NFL, NBA, NHL, and MLB. This is no surprise because NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL teams boast average revenues of $286 million (NFL), $237 million (MLB), $152 million (NBA), $88 million (NHL).
These high revenues can be attributed to the high demand for tickets, and thus ticket prices, that are pushed up due to corporations and businesses buying season tickets and luxury boxes.
Moreover, with revenues of this proportion it is inevitable that the big four leagues dominate the local and national market and generate the majority of media attention. Not to mention the billions of dollars that are spent by the major media outlets to control the rights and footage of the big four.
These factors have created today’s professional sports climate that is marked as overexposed and expensive. This has left a growing hole in the market for smaller professional sports, such as Ultimate Frisbee (AUDL) and Lacrosse (MLL) that are casual and inexpensive.
A perfect example of a league that is attempting to fill the hole is the American Ultimate Disc League (AUDL). The AUDL is a professional Ultimate Frisbee league, founded in 2010 and currently consists of 24 teams across the United States and Canada. The sport of Ultimate Frisbee is currently the second fastest growing sport behind lacrosse in the United States and has a national following as well as participants of all ages.
The cost of attendance for one game is $10 or less with time of play under two hours with constant game play. The cheap tickets and shorter game time offered by the AUDL, when compared to the big four, are attractive to average households and casual sports fans looking to attend sporting events.
In addition, the sport itself is enticing to the average American household because unlike football and baseball, the only piece of equipment needed to play is a $10 disc. This low cost of play also will benefit the league because it will attract more athletes to the sport. A league like the AUDL is able to keep prices low and fill the hole left by the big four because unlike the major leagues, player salaries are nearly nonexistent allowing for all revenue created to go back into growing the sport as well as creating additional exposure.
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The big four leagues are constantly covered creating a potential problem of overexposure, which could result in drops in viewership and league support. Mark Cuban owner of the Dallas Mavericks believes that this applies to the NFL. In his remarks on Facebook on March of 2014, he wrote that the “[NFL] risk over-saturation, a decline in interest by the current, and non-NFL fans feeling imposed upon because of the relative popularity of the NFL." It is not a stretch to make this same point about the MLB, NHL, and NBA, who also have yearly exposure and growing media platforms.
In addition to potential overexposure, the four leagues take a lot of criticism for the high price for cost of attendance. In 2014 the average cost for one adult to attend one of the four league’s 122 teams was $79.31. This is a very concerning number for casual sports fans, as well as the average American family that does not value the experience at such a high price, due to the lack of recreational spending money.
Households in America on average only have a yearly entertainment budget of $2,500. This once again shows the need for inexpensive professional sports. A need that is not met by the NFL, NBA, MLB, or NHL.
Professional sports have become far too expensive and overexposed, forcing us to ask the question of how they will stay attractive to fans and viewers. Not including the threat of overexposure, viewership is dropping because millennials do not enjoy the long game time.
In addition, demand for tickets has substantially risen due to corporations purchasing boxes and season tickets. Because of this spike in demand, the cost of attendance has skyrocketed. All of these factors are why the big four leagues have left a growing hole in the market for professional sports, like the AUDL, that are quick, casual, and inexpensive.
About the Author: Kyle Cheves is a junior at Southern Methodist University (SMU) in Dallas, double majoring in History and Sports Management with a minor in Chinese. In the future, he hopes to work in college athletics or possibly in the field of law after attending law school.