Sports and the Media

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Sports and the media are so thoroughly intertwined in the United States that it is difficult to think of them as two distinct industries. The financial relationship is complex and reciprocal. Media enterprises, mostly broadcast and cable television stations but also Web based, pay the sports leagues millions of dollars for the rights to broadcast their games. Leagues distribute this money to their member teamsthe distribution formula varies from sport to sportwhich then transfer most of this money to their players in the form of salaries. The media outlets try to recoup their huge expenditures by selling advertising time during sports broadcasts to companies that believe their products will appeal to the kinds of people who like to watch sports on television. These consumer product companies also pay large sums to individual athletes to endorse their products, or in some cases to teams to display their company logos on their uniforms or, in the case of auto racing, on their cars. Consumers then purchase these products, providing the money the companies use to buy advertising and pay for celebrity endorsements. The more people who watch a sport, the more the station can charge for advertising. The more the station can charge for advertising, the more it can offer the league for broadcast rights. The more the league gets for broadcast rights, the more the teams can pay their players.


In "Sports and Television" (2004,, Harry Coyle, a pioneering television sports director, states that "television got off the ground because of sports. Today, maybe, sports need television to survive, but it was just the opposite when it first started. When we [NBC] put on the World Series in 1947, heavyweight fights, the Army-Navy football game, the sales of television sets just spurted."

Even though it may be an exaggeration to credit the explosive growth of television in its early days solely to sports, sports certainly played a significant role. The first-ever televised sporting event was a baseball game between Columbia and Princeton universities in 1939. It was covered by one camera that was positioned along the third base line. The first network-wide sports broadcast came five years later with the premier of the National Broadcasting Corporation's (NBC) Gillette Cavalcade of Sports, the first installment of which featured a featherweight championship boxing match between Willie Pep (19222006) and Chalky Wright (19121957). Sports quickly became a staple of primetime network fare, accounting for up to one-third of primetime programming, but other genres began to catch up during the 1950s, perhaps spurred on by an increase in female viewers. The Gillette Cavalcade of Sports remained on the air for twenty years, before giving way to a new model in which sports programs were sponsored by multiple buyers of advertising spots rather than by a single corporation, as the cost of sponsorship became prohibitively expensive in the mid-1960s. The number of hours of sports programming on the networks continued to increase dramatically well into the 1980s, when advertising dollars generated by sports began to decline, making them less profitable for the networks to carry.

The amount of money involved in televising sports was growing fast by the 1970s. The Museum of Broadcast Communications notes that in 1970 the networks paid $50 million for the right to broadcast National Football League (NFL) games, $18 million for Major League Baseball (MLB), and $2 million for National Basketball Association (NBA) broadcast rights. By 1985 these numbers reached $450 million for football, $160 million for baseball, and $45 million for basketball. This explosive growth was fueled by a combination of increasing public interest, betterand therefore more expensivecoverage of events by the networks, and an effort on the part of the networks to lock in their position of dominance in sports programming in the face of challenges from emerging cable television networks. These skyrocketing fees did not cause much of a problem during the 1970s, as the networks were able to pass the high cost of producing sports programs along to their advertisers. However, things began to change during the early 1980s. According to the Museum of Broadcast Communications, between 1980 and 1984 professional football lost 7% of its viewing audience, and baseball lost 26% of its viewers. Meanwhile, advertisers became hesitant to pay increasing prices for commercials that would be seen by fewer people. The networks responded by airing more hours of sports. By 1985 the three major networks broadcast a total of fifteen hundred hours of sports, about twice as many hours as in 1960. However, by the mid-1980s the market for sports programming appeared saturated, and the presence of more shows made it harder for the networks to sell ads at top prices.

The first half of the 1980s marked the rise of sports coverage on cable. According to the Museum of Broadcast Communications, the all-sports station Entertainment and Sports Programming Network (ESPN), first launched in 1979, was reaching four million households by the middle of 1980. National stations such as WTBS and WGN, as well as the premium channel Home Box Office (HBO), were also airing a substantial number of sporting events. By 1986 thirty-seven million households were subscribing to ESPN.

Between the early 1990s and the early 2000s broadcast television ratings for the four major professional sports generally trended downward. There is no real consensus as to why this happened. Jere Longman, in "Pro Leagues' Ratings Drop; Nobody Is Quite Sure Why" (Scott R. Rosner and Kenneth L. Shropshire, eds., The Business of Sports, 2004), points to "a growing dislocation between fans and traditional sports, as players, coaches and teams move frequently, as athletes misbehave publicly, as salaries skyrocket, and as ticket prices become prohibitively expensive" as possible contributing factors in the decline of ratings during that period.

The key challenge for all the major sports leaguesbeyond the obvious challenge of attracting as many viewers and listeners as possibleis to balance exposure and distribution of their product against consumer demand. In other words, in an era witnessing the emergence of new media such as the Internet, satellite radio, and even live feeds to cell phones, at what point does the coverage of a sport available for consumption outstrip the public's interest in that sport, thereby becoming a losing financial proposition?


By 1939 baseball was already known as "America's national pastime." Television was still a novelty at the time. The only option for those who could not attend a baseball game in person was to listen to a live broadcast on the radio. The first televised professional baseball game, between the Brooklyn Dodgers and the Cincinnati Reds, took place on August 26 of that year. The broadcast used two cameras: one positioned high above home plate and a second one along the third base line. Such a broadcast would appear primitive by twenty-first-century standards. To cover a typical World Series game in the modern era, broadcasters use perhaps a couple dozen cameras, some of them operated electronically, and at least one mounted on an airborne blimp. In addition, early broadcasts offered none of the additional features contemporary viewers take for granted, including color, instant replays, and statistics superimposed on the screen.

NBC was the network that first brought televised baseball to the American public. Because NBC used home-team announcers to call the World Series, and because the New York Yankees were in the World Series nearly every year, the Yankees announcer Mel Allen (19131996) became the first coast-to-coast voice of baseball. The Hall of Fame pitcher Dizzy Dean (19111974) became the first nationwide television baseball announcer when the network premiered the Game of the Week in 1953, thus initiating the long line of former ball players who have transformed themselves into commentators when their playing careers have ended.

By the 1960s baseball had lost a large share of its audience to other sports, particularly football. Baseball nevertheless remains a solid ratings draw, especially when teams with well-known stars located in large markets square off in the postseason. However, the overall ratings for World Series broadcasts have been declining for years. ESPN notes in "The Cardinals Won? Series Averages Record-Low Ratings" (October 29, 2006, that the numbers rebounded somewhat in 2004, when the World Series received a 15.8 rating (meaning 15.8% of all households were tuned in) and a 25 share (meaning 25% of those watching something were watching the World Series). However, the 2006 World Series set a new record low for viewership, capturing only an average rating of 10.1 and a 17 share over the five games. The article "Fox Attributes Low Ratings to Labor Strife" (Sports Illustrated, October 29, 2002) states that this was a far cry from 1980, when the World Series had a 32.8% rating and a 56 share during the entire series.

MLB is currently operating under a round of television deals signed in 2005 and 2006. The SportsBusiness Journal states in Sports Business Resource Guide & Fact Book (2007,,117.pdf) that ESPN agreed to pay $2.3 billion to start a series of Monday night baseball broadcasts as part of an eight-year contract, which runs through 2013. Under the terms of the deal, ESPN may televise up to eighty regular-season games per season. The agreement also affords ESPN substantial flexibility to move some of the games to Sunday nights. MLB also has a deal with Fox for the broadcast rights to the All-Star Game and the World Series through 2013. MLB's other major television partner is TBS, which is slated to air all regular-season tiebreaker games, Division Series games, and a Sunday afternoon regular-season package through 2013. Professional baseball has increased its media income substantially in recent years, according to the Associated Press, in "ESPN and Baseball Agree to Eight-Year Deal" (September 14, 2005, The 2005 season marked the first year of a six-year contract with ESPN radio worth an average of $11 million per year; a six-year Internet deal with ESPN for an annual average of $30 million; and a $60 million-per-year deal with XM satellite radio to transmit baseball games for eleven years.

In "Is MLB Extending Its Reach or Overreaching?" in the SportsBusiness Journal (March 28, 2005,, Russell Adams observes that the 2005 MLB season marked "a critical juncture for MLB officials, who are charged with managing a perfect storm of peaking demand for content, the emergence of new technologies for delivering it, and the growing number of media outlets demanding a larger piece of both." Adams describes a situation in which baseball clubs' local television partners are clamoring for more content from a sport that has more games to offer than any other. Opportunities abound, many of them in new media, for a sport that has long been criticized for "underutilizing its product"; that is, not showing enough games in sophisticated enough ways, and for neglecting the younger portion of its potential audience. This neglect and underutilization no longer seem to be the case. According to Adams, the Internet division of MLB, known as MLB Advanced Media, has built a thriving subscription business by streaming live video of more than twenty-three hundred regular-season games and live audio of all games, and by packaging and selling video on an on-demand basis once the game has ended. Television contracts do not apply to these sales, because broadcast rights revert to the league once the game has taken place.


Professional Football

It is not an exaggeration to say that television put football where it is today. Before the era of televised sports, baseball was much more popular than football. Stirring television moments such as the 1958 NFL Championship, a thrilling overtime victory by the Baltimore Colts over the New York Giants, helped establish professional football as a big-time spectator sport. A few years later, when Time put the Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi (19131970) on its cover in 1962accompanied by the pronouncement that football was "The Sport of the '60s"it was clear that the sport had come of age as a media phenomenon.

In April 2005 the NFL signed a deal for $1.1 billion per year to move Monday Night Football from its longstanding home with the American Broadcasting Company (ABC)which was paying about half that sum under its expiring contractto ESPN from 2006 through the 2013 season. (See Table 1.4 in Chapter 1.) Under the terms of the deal, ESPN would continue to make its NFL games available on regular broadcast television in the markets of the participating teams each week. However, unlike basketball, which experienced a loss of casual viewers when games were moved to cable in 2002, regular network television would continue to play a large role in bringing football to the viewing public.

The same day it shook hands with ESPN, the league reached an agreement with NBC, which had not broadcast NFL games since 1997. The NBC contract provides $600 million per year for the rights to carry seventeen Sunday night games each season through 2011. (See Table 1.4.) Meanwhile, the NFL had agreed in November 2004 to extend its existing relationships with Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) and Fox to carry regular-season American Football Conference and National Football Conference games, respectively. The new CBS agreement included two Super Bowls and guaranteed $622.5 million per year through 2011; the new Fox contract called for five years at $712.5 million per year, with two Super Bowls included in the deal. The league received another $700 million from DirectTV in a five-year agreement covering satellite transmission rights.

What do the networks get for all this money? They get plenty because advertisers know how firmly football is entrenched in U.S. households and sports bars. Football is by far the most popular sport to watch on television in the United States. In a December 2006 poll by the Gallup Organization, 43% of Americans named football as their top choice among sports on television. (See Figure 3.1 and Table 3.1.) This is nothing new; football has topped polls consistently since the early 1970s, when it overtook baseball as the public's favorite sport to watch. In the 2006 survey basketball was a distant second at 12%, and baseball was third at 11%. The preference for watching baseball has been on the decline since its peak in 1948, when 39% said it was their favorite sport to watch. (See Table 3.2.)

According to Nielsen Media Research, five of the ten top-rated U.S. television shows of all time have been sports programs, and of those five, four were Super Bowls. According to the NFL, in "Colts-Bears Draws No. 3 Audience of All-Time" (August 7, 2007,, 93.2 million viewers watched Super Bowl XLI in February 2007, giving it the third-largest television audience of all time, behind only the 1996 Super Bowl and the final episode of the long-running comedy series M*A*S*H in 1983.

*=Less than .5%.
= Zero respondents.
Auto racing4555
Ice/figure skating3346
Ice hockey2435
No opinion**1*

College Football

Televised college sports have nearly as much appeal as professional sports for American audiences, and since the 1980s they have become the subject of large media contracts as well. In the early days of televised sports, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) determined which college teams could play on television. Officially, the NCAA's goal in making these decisions was to protect the schools from the loss of ticket-buying fans who were lured by the glowing screen in a warm home. The NCAA's dominance over the right to broadcast football games went virtually unquestioned for years. According to Welch Suggs, in "Football, Television, and the Supreme Court" (Chronicle of Higher Education, vol. 50, no. 44, July 9, 2004), the only case of a college losing its membership in the NCAA came in 1951, when the University of Pennsylvania was dismissed for attempting to schedule its own broadcasts in defiance of the NCAA. The school quickly repented, and its membership was restored.

The networks, however, aware of the potential audience for games between large universities with esteemed football programs, kept courting college athletic departments. By the 1970s several universities with top football programs had become frustrated with the limits the

FootballBaseballBasketballAuto racingIce/figure skatingIce hockey
2006 Dec 1114431112423
2005 Dec 58341212534
2004 Dec 58371013543
2003 Dec 1114371014565
2002 Dec 58371213543
2001 Mar 2628281216643
2000 Mar 30Apr 2331315545
1998 Nov 2022361612323
1997 Apr 1820301417723
1995 Apr 1719321615223
1994 Sep 1620371613231
1994 Aug 89352111233
1992 Sept381612224
1990 Feb351615123
1981 Jan38169122
1972 Oct32249214
1960 Dec21349*13
1948 Apr 9141739101*3
1937 Mar 2429

NCAA was placing on their television exposure. In 1977 five major conferences, along with a handful of high-profile independents, formed their own group, the College Football Association (CFA), to fight for their interests within the NCAA. A few years later the CFA signed its own television agreement with NBC, the second-largest sports television contract ever signed up to that time. Naturally, the NCAA was unhappy about this development and moved to ban the teams involved from all championship events. The University of Georgia and Oklahoma University sued the NCAA, and the case was eventually decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in NCAA v. Board of Regents of the University of Oklahoma et al. (468 U.S. 85, 1984). In the end, the NCAA was found to be in violation of antitrust laws. Thus, the NCAA's stranglehold on television broadcast of college football was broken.

In the wake of the Supreme Court decision, the CFA took on the role of coordinating the television coverage of most of the nation's leading football conferences. Still, some teams found the arrangement too restrictive. Following the defection of a handful of teams and conferences, the CFA folded in 1994, and the conferences were on their own to negotiate television contracts with the networks. The dollars began to flow in an ever-greater volume during this period. Suggs notes that the Southeastern Conference (SEC) signed a contract in 1990 that brought in $16 million to be divided among its members; in 2004 SEC teams, including the University of Alabama, the University of Arkansas, the University of Georgia, and Louisiana State University, split nearly seven times that amount.

With about a thousand universities participating in over one hundred fifty thousand sporting events each year by 2007, competition for the right to put these events on television is fierce. In 2003 a new station devoted strictly to collegiate athletics was launched under the name College Sports Television (CSTV). According to CSTV (2007,, in 2007 CSTV was available in more than twenty-one million homes via cable and satellite. CSTV also operates a network of 215 official athletic Web sites for top colleges, and streams audio and/or video for thousands of events per year on high-speed Internet to online subscribers. CSTV was purchased by CBS in January 2006. As often happens in the media world, success has bred competition. In March 2005 ESPN launched ESPNU, its own version of a college-only sports station.


NBA regular-season games have never drawn the kind of television audiences that NFL games routinely attract, simply because there are so many of themthe NBA season lasts eighty-two games, whereas the NFL's lasts just sixteen. In basketball, viewership increases significantly during the playoffs and is greatly influenced by the specific teams or personalities involved in a game. The NBA's television ratings have generally been sliding since Michael Jordan's (1963) second retirement in 1999. Bob Wolfley notes in "NBA's Network Ratings Still Falling" (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, April 13, 2006) that NBA regular-season broadcasts scored an average rating of 2.2 in 2006. A decade earlier, during the peak of the Jordan era, it had a 5.0 rating, according to Kevin Downey, in "'Monday Night Football' Takes a Hit" (Media Life, October 9, 2001). In "Fox's NASCAR Rainout Coverage Drove Ratings" (March 21, 2006,, John Consoli notes that a low point came in 2006, when a game between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Los Angeles Lakerspitting two of the sport's brightest stars in LeBron James (1984) and Kobe Bryant (1978) against each otherrecorded lower ratings than a rained-out National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) race being broadcast simultaneously on another network. In "Ratings for 2007 Finals down 27 Percent from Last Year" (June 15, 2007,, ESPN reports that the 2007 NBA Finals, also featuring the emerging superstar James, scored record low ratings on ABC, capturing just a 6.2 rating and 11.0 share.

According to Erik Spanberg, in "NBA: Why Aren't You Watching?" (Christian Science Monitor, June 23, 2005), basketball's television ratings have been plummeting for a variety of reasons. Spanberg quotes the industry analyst David Carter of the Sports Business Group, who places the blame on a charisma gap: "The NBA is lacking chemistry and the style and personalities that drove it during the 1980s and 1990s." According to Carter, the slower pace of the game, which has been dominated by stifling defenses in recent years, also has a negative effect on ratings. Spanberg also raises the issue of the widening gulf between players and fans. Peter Roby, the director of the Center for the Study of Sport in Society at Northeastern University, notes, "There is a lack of connection between players and fans because the players make so much money now. Players in the 1960s and 1970s used to live in the same neighborhoods as the fans. Now there is a wedge between fans and players, so there is no empathy."

Table 3.3 shows the history of the NBA's television contracts since 1953. The rate at which the money involved has increased is striking. The set of deals the league signed in 1990 with TNT and NBC were worth well under $1 billion for four years. The most recent contracts, signed in 2002 with TNT and ABC/ESPN, cover six years (from the 200203 season through the 200708 season) and have a total value of $4.6 billion. Under these contracts AOL/Time Warner (now Time Warner) agreed to pay nearly $2.2 billion to show fifty-two regular-season telecasts and up to forty-five postseason games on TNT. ESPN signed on to broadcast seventy-five regular-season games for $2.4 billion. The 2002 deal represented a key shift that saw most games moved from network television to cable. The terms of the latest contract call for ABC to air fifteen regular-season games per year, less than half of what NBC was airing under the previous contract. Rudy Martzke reports in

SeasonsStationContracts amount
N/A=Not available
197980 to 198182USA$1.5 million/3 years
198283 to 198384USA/ESPN$11 million/2 years
198485 to 198586TBS$20 million/2 years
198687 to 198788TBS$25 million/2 years
198889 to 198990TBS/TNT$50 million/2 years
199091 to 199394TNT$275 million/4 years
199495 to 199798TNT/TBS$397 million/4 years
199899 to 200102TNT/TBS$840 million/4 years
200203 to 200708TNT$2.2 billion/6 years
195354DUMONT$39,000/13 games
195455 to 196162NBCN/A
196263 to 197273ABCN/A
197374 to 197576CBS$27 million/3 years
197677 to 197778CBS$21 million/2 years
197879 to 198182CBS$74 million/4 years
198283 to 198586CBS$91.9 million/4 years
198687 to 198990CBS$173 million/4 years
199091 to 199394NBC$601 million/4 years
199495 to 199798NBC$892 million/4 years
199899 to 200102NBC$1.616 billion/4 years
200203 to 200708ABC/ESPN$2.4 billion/6 years

"NBA Finalizes TV Deals: Goodbye NBC" (USA Today, January 22, 2002) that during this contract period, which lasted from 199899 through 200102, the league's television ratings had fallen more than 35%. As a result, NBC was not inclined to make a particularly generous offer to extend its NBA contract; its bid of $325 million per year came in well below the $400 million offered by ESPN. Another factor in the shift from network to cable is the availability to cable stations of revenue from subscription fees. This additional source of income gives cable stations a negotiating advantage over traditional networks, which depend solely on advertising fees for their income.

In 2003 Time Warner Cable, Cox Communications, and Cablevision Systems teamed up on a multiyear agreement with the NBA for distribution of NBA-TV, the league's own twenty-four-hour network, which as of 2005 was available in about sixty-seven million U.S. homes, according to the NBA, in "NBA TV to Televise 25 D-League Games" (October 24, 2005,


The National Hockey League (NHL) has experienced a downturn in television viewership over the past decade. So apathetic was the viewing public in 2004 that the conference finals of the Stanley Cup Playoffs did not even draw a large enough share of the potential viewing audience to crack the top-fifteen program list for the week of May 17 through May 23. In June 2007 the final game of the Stanley Cup series between the Anaheim Ducks and Ottawa Senators pulled in the lowest audience for the championship in more than a decade, losing 28% of its 2006 audience with only two million households tuned in (

Given its declining performance as a television draw, it is not surprising that the NHL has the least lucrative national television deals among the major sports. NBC currently pays no fee for broadcast rights, and the NHL does not receive any money until NBC recoups all of its costs. Once this happens, the two entities share advertising revenues equally. In March 2007 NBC and the NHL agreed to extend the deal through the 200708 season, with an option to add another season afterward. This deal was set to expire at the end of 2008; NBC retains the option to renew the agreement for two additional years. ESPN, which had paid $60 million for broadcast rights through 200405, declined to extend its contract after that season was canceled because of a labor dispute between owners and players. Instead, the NHL signed a new agreement with the Comcast-owned Outdoor Life Network, in which the league is guaranteed $65 million for the first year and $70 million for the second. In "Look Who's Talking: ESPN, NHL" (July 30, 2007,, John Ourand and Tripp Mickle report that ESPN and the NHL were conducting negotiations in 2007 to bring professional hockey back to ESPN2 beginning in 200809. As of September 2007 no contract had been signed, and the future of ice hockey as a first-tier major sport seemed doubtful, with many hometown newspapers discontinuing their coverage of teams during road trips to away games.


In "NASCAR TV Deals Done" (December 7, 2005,, Mike Reynolds reports that in 2005 NASCAR signed a set of eight-year television rights contracts with ESPN/ABC Sports ($270 million per year) and Turner Broad-casting's TNT network ($80 million per year). Soon after these lucrative deals were signed, NASCAR's television ratings began to sag. According to Nate Ryan, in "NASCAR's Growth Slows after 15 Years in the Fast Lane" (USA Today, November 15, 2006), in thirty of the first thirty-four races of 2006, ratings were lower than they were the previous year.


Even though television ratings for extreme sports still have a long way to go before they are in the same league as professional football and basketball, the audience is growing. More important, at least from the perspective of advertisers, the audience watching extreme sports is youthful and predominantly male, with a lot of buying power. Not many sports can take credit for completely altering the public image of a soft drink, but extreme sports have done just that for Mountain Dew. Once perceived as a "hillbilly" drink, Mountain Dew is now almost universally associated with youth culture as personified by practitioners of extreme sports. In "Going to Extremes" (American Demographics, June 1, 2002), Joan Raymond states that the transformation started in 1992 with the appearance of the "Do the Dew" advertising campaign. The campaign, which featured attractive young people engaging in a variety of extreme activities, helped make Mountain Dew the fastest-growing soft drink during the 1990s.

Raymond notes that by the turn of the millennium, while Monday Night Football 's ratings were decliningviewership dropped from an average of 12.7% of the nation's households in 2000 to 11.5% in 2001ratings for the two premier extreme sports events, the X Games and the Gravity Games, were increasing quickly. About two million households tuned in to the 2001 Gravity Games, up from 1.6 million the previous year. However, Chris Isidore states in "X-treme Marks the Spot" (August 6, 2004, that while the best ratings for the 2003 Summer X Games on ABC showed 2.2% of the nation's households watching, that number was still barely half the rating ABC achieved for the final game of NHL's Stanley Cup finals, which were themselves considered a ratings disappointment. In "Moto X Racing Added for Summer X Games 13" (March 22, 2007,, ESPN states that the 2006 X Games averaged a mere 0.9 rating on ESPN.

Broadcasters and advertisers are nevertheless optimistic about the future of extreme sports programming. According to Isidore, the sports' median (half are higher and half are lower) viewership age is twenty-seven, compared to a median age of forty-two for ESPN's NFL football broadcasts. The ages for some other sports are even higher: baseball's median is forty-eight and golf's is fifty-five. Media companies are scrambling to ride this youthful wave. Fox has launched a new digital cable channel called FuelTV, which is devoted to extreme sports and other programming that targets the under-forty demographic. Moreover, this young audience is also more comfortable with new media than their parents are, as reflected by the 1.4 million visits to, the official X Games Web site, on August 5, 2006, during the peak of the summer games. ESPN planned to expand its use of live streaming video and other newer technology in 2007.


The SportsBusiness Journal (2007, estimates that sports in the United States are a $213 billion industry, making it twice as large as the U.S. auto industry. Of this $213 billion, $27.4 billion (or 14.1%) falls into the advertising category. Surprisingly, television does not account for the largest share of this total. The biggest share, $16.4 billion, is spent on billboards and signage at arenas and stadiums. National network television is the second largest expenditure, at $4.7 billion, followed by radio at $2.3 billion. Another $1.8 billion is spent on advertising on national cable television, and sports magazines account for $1.5 billion of the sports advertising total. The rest is spent on regional television, both network and cable, and national syndicated television. The SportsBusiness Journal classifies the $239 million that was spent on Internet advertising in a separate category. These totals do not include the $407 million spent on Internet advertising at sports-related Web sitesas estimated by Research and Markets in "Sports Site Marketing: A Whole New Ball Game" (July 2007, for 2006.

A significant portion of sports advertising spending is on commercials aired during noteworthy games. The most expensive television advertisements of any kind are those placed during the NFL's Super Bowl. The article "Advertising History: 40 Years of Prices and Audience" (2007, indicates that a thirty-second spot during the 2007 Super Bowl cost advertisers $2.6 million, whereas in 1967 it cost only $40,000 (or about $245,350 in 2007 dollars). Given the cost, advertisers want maximum impact, and they create innovative and sometimes controversial ads just for the occasion. Table 3.4 shows a variety of facts about Super Bowl advertising, including the top advertisers and top product categories from 2002 through 2006.

Super Bowl commercials have in fact become something of a genre in themselves. Since 2004, however, advertisers appeared to have toned down the shock factor in the wake of that year's infamous halftime incident in which Janet Jackson's breast was exposed during the live broadcast. Advertising during baseball's World Series is a bargain in comparison, but it still yields large sums of money for the broadcaster. In Sports, Inc. (2004), Phil Schaaf explains that Fox charged $325,000 for a thirty-second spot during the 2002 World Series and took in nearly $20 million per game over the course of the series. This means that in just five games, Fox was able to recoup about a quarter of its yearly $400 million investment in MLB. It is worth noting that advertising spots during the first five games were sold out even before it was known which two teams would be participating.

Top advertiser (seconds of exposure)
2006Anheuser-Busch (270)
2005Anheuser-Busch (300)
2004Anheuser-Busch (330)
2003Anheuser-Busch (330)
2002Anheuser-Busch (300)
Average 30-second cost
2006$2.5 million
2005$2.4 million
2004$2.3 million
2003$2.15 million
2002$2.2 million
2006 top categories (seconds of exposure)
1. Beer-270 seconds
    Motion pictures-270 seconds
2. Autos & trucks-240 seconds
3. Wireless telephone services-150 seconds
2006 top advertisers (seconds of exposure)
1. Anheuser-Busch-270 seconds
2. Pepsi-Cola-120 seconds
3. Gillette-90 seconds
    Mobile ESPN-90 seconds
    Walt Disney World-90 seconds
    Warner Brothers Entertainment-90 seconds

According to the Center for Media Research, at $2.5 million, the advertising rates for thirty-second commercials during the Super Bowl far exceeded rates for other sports championships in 2006 ( Network television advertising rates for other top-rated sports events in 2006 included $1.1 million for a thirty-second spot during the championship game of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament, $900$956 million for a thirty-second ad during the AFC and NFC championship games leading up to the Super Bowl, $400,000 for an ad during the MLB World Series, $359 million for advertising time during the NBA Championship Series, and $268 million to $530 million for a thirty-second ad during a college football bowl game.

Advertising rates for nonchampionship sporting events, however, are usually negotiated in packages rather than for individual time slots. When broken down into thirty-second spots for comparison purposes, other estimated advertising rates that Schaaf mentions include ESPN's SportsCenter, $11,000; baseball divisional championship series, $90,000; U.S. Open tennis finals, $175,000; and Monday Night Football, $325,000.

Sports Advertising and Alcohol

Sports advertising is dominated by products that appeal to young adult males. However, one product in particular, beer, is the undisputed king of the sports

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advertising jungle. According to the article "A-B Paces Ad Spending, Olympic Sponsors Climb List" (SportsBusiness Journal, March 21, 2005), the top sports advertiser for the last several years has been Anheuser-Busch Companies, which spends about $300 million83% of its total advertising budgeton sports advertising each year.

The Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth (CAMY) studies the relationship between sports programming and alcohol advertising. In the fact sheet Alcohol Advertising on Sports Television, 2001 to 2003 (October 2004,, CAMY finds that while sports programming accounted for only 16% to 18% of overall television advertising spending and only about 4% of all ads in those years, over 60% of the alcohol industry's advertising spending and around 30% of its ads were on sports programs. Overall, the alcohol industry spent $541 million to place 90,817 ads on television sports programming in 2003. (See Table 3.5.) CAMY notes that the percentage of commercials on sports shows that are for alcohol products is triple the percentage of ads on all programming that are for alcohol products. Even though beer advertisements have long been omnipresent on sports television, in recent years ads for hard liquor have been appearing with greater frequency. Sports television advertising for distilled spirits increased 350% between 2001 and 2003. CAMY also finds that alcohol advertising increased for the Super Bowl, Monday Night Football, and other top-rated games.

CAMY states that soccer outranked all other sports in terms of the percentage of its advertising that is for alcohol products; 8.3% of the commercials on televised soccer games were for alcohol. Hockey was second at 7.2%, followed by professional basketball at 6.8%. Overall, 3.2% of all ads shown during televised sporting events in 2003 were for alcohol products. Among professional sports, hockey games had the highest number of alcohol ads per broadcast. A typical televised hockey game featured 5.3 alcohol ads in 2003. (See Table 3.6.) Boxing matches averaged 4.5 alcohol ads, followed closely by professional basketball with 4.4.

According to CAMY, advertising on college sports presentations is at least as alcohol-oriented as on

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This text has been suppressed due to author restrictions.

professional sports programming. In 2003 alcohol companies spent $52.2 million to place 4,747 ads on college sports programs. (See Table 3.7.) College basketball, at $28.2 million, accounted for more than half of this spending.


In "Women Have Turned Chilly to TV Sports" (April 20, 2004,, Toni Fitzgerald suggests that women and men watch sports for different reasons. Women, Fitzgerald proposes, watch sports for the story lines, meaning their primary interest is in the drama and personalities. By contrast, men are interested in the skills and statistics. Fitzgerald points to a report from the media research firm Magna Global USA, which finds that sports viewership by women had declined significantly between 1998 and 2003, as measured both by ratings and by total weekly hours spent watching sports. According to the Magna Global data, average broadcast (i.e., noncable) television ratings among women decreased by 18% during this period. The ratings drop was even more precipitous (44%) for women watching basic cable television sports. The total number of hours women spent watching sports on televisioneither broadcast or basic cabledropped by 17%, from 1.5 hours per week in 1998 (with Olympic coverage excluded from the total) to 1.2 hours in 2003. Meanwhile, broadcast ratings for men decreased only 9% during this span, whereas cable ratings fell 36%. Men's viewing hours dropped only 6%, from 2.8 hours per week to 2.6. Fitzgerald argues that these numbers are the result of what is happening in the sports world. When the sports that women like to watch, such as figure skating and tennis, have relatively few appealing story lines in motion, women turn the television off. Therefore, injuries to Serena Williams (1981) and Venus Williams (1980) in tennis and Michelle Kwan's (1980) gradual decline in figure skating were seen to have a measurable effect on viewership among women.


Not long ago there were only two options for sports enthusiasts: playing a sport yourself or watching others play it live or onscreen. In recent years, a third way has emerged in the form of sports gaming.

Sports-oriented video games have been around for years, but until the mid-1980s the graphics were mediocre and the action unexciting for a true sports buff. A big change took place during the late 1980s when Electronic Arts (EA), at the time a relatively new company making interactive entertainment software, introduced the first-ever football video game to offer realistic eleven-on-eleven action. To make the game as realistic as possible, the company consulted extensively with the former NFL coach and current football commentator John Madden (1936). They eventually named the game after Madden, and in 1989 the first version of John Madden Football was released for Apple II computers. The game was an instant sensation. A version for the Sega Genesis home entertainment system was introduced the following year. Over the next few years the gaming industry grew exponentially, split about evenly between computer games and television-based systems. By the release of the 1995 version of the game, Madden NFL '95, EA had hashed out licensing deals with the NFL and the NFL Players Association, allowing it to use likenesses of real players and the official league and team logos and uniforms. Madden NFL was eventually made available for every major gaming system. According to Matthew Kirdahy, in "The Best-Selling Games of 2006" (December 15, 2006,, by 2006 Madden NFL had sold fifty-one million units worldwide since its 1989 launch; it was the best-selling video game of any kind, not just sports, in 2006, selling 2.3 million copies for various platforms.

However, Madden NFL is just one of a number of highly successful sports games. In "Video Gaming Is on a Roll, as NBA, NFL Lend Reality to Look" (Sacramento Bee, April 2, 2005), Clint Swett notes that sports game sales in the United States totaled $1.2 billion in 2004, representing nearly one-fifth of the entire $6.2 billion video game market. The latest development in sports gaming is the appearance of exclusive licensing contracts between sports leagues and individual game manufacturers. Swett reports that in December 2004 EAwhich besides the Madden NFL series also makes NBA Live signed a $400 million deal with the NFL, giving it exclusive rights to the likenesses of NFL players, uniforms, and stadiums for five years, effectively freezing out competitors such as Take-Two Interactive Software, which had eroded sales of Madden NFL by offering its ESPN NFL at sharply reduced prices. Take-Two's consolation prize was a seven-year, $250 million contract with MLB. EA was also one of five game companies to agree to pay a combined $400 million to the NBA for use of its imagery. In yet another licensing deal, EA is paying ESPN $850 million for fifteen years of use of ESPN features, including announcers and scoreboards.


The Influence of Advertising on Young Sports Fans

The prevalence of alcohol in sports advertising noted earlier, and the potential harm it can cause to young viewers, is just one of many key issues in how sports are delivered to the American public via the media. In August 1999 the national, nonpartisan advocacy group Children Now published Boys to Men: Sports Media (, a report analyzing the content of sports programming during the late 1990s, and combines this information with data from polling and focus groups of young people. Children Now's intent was to connect the messages youths receive when watching sports programmingand the commercials placed thereinwith their attitudes and behaviors. It finds that in 1999, 98% of U.S. boys between the ages of eight and seventeen consumed some form of sports-related media; 90% of them watched sports on television. Children Now notes that aggression and violence are often depicted in a positive light, and war metaphors are regularly employed. Furthermore, it highlights issues related to race and gender in sports. According to Boys to Men, more than three-quarters of sports announcers are white males. White females and African-American males each account for only 10% of sports commentators on U.S. broadcasts. Even though Children Now does not find significant evidence of overt racist content, sports programs sometimes reinforce racial stereotypes, such as by lauding African-American players for their "natural athleticism" or by remarking on the intelligence of white athletes. Women on sports programs, it suggests, are often treated as no more than props with sex appeal.

Native American Mascots

For the last fifty years Native American advocacy groups have expressed opposition to the use of Native American names and mascots by sports teams. Organizations such as the National Coalition on Racism in Sports and Media have embarked on a campaign to convince teams to discard cartoonish Native American mascots and to encourage teams with names such as the Braves, Chiefs, and Redskins to rename themselves. This movement has met with some success. In the 1970s activists convinced Stanford and Dartmouth universities to change their names from Indians to race-neutral names: the Cardinals and the Big Green, respectively. In 1994 Marquette University shed its Warriors nickname and became the Golden Eagles. The St. Johns University Redmen became the Red Storm the same year, and in 2007, after a long debate, the University of Illinois finally retired Chief Illiniwek, a school mascot since 1926. However, many more teams have resisted calls to retire their traditional mascots, so the debate continues.

Violence and Athlete Role-Models

Violence in sports is often a focus of media scrutiny and academic research because the behavior of high-profile athletes can have an impact on fan behavior, according to social scientists. In "Violence in Sports Reflects Society, Says IU Professor" (July 3, 2002,, Lynn Jamieson of Indiana University explains that "sport tends to reflect society, and we live in a violent era. We have a violent society where people use violence to solve problems instead of using other means. The violence issue is not limited to professional sports. It filters down to the high schools and even to recreational activities. This is because if it occurs at the professional level, it is likely to be imitated at the lower levels like Little League and city recreational programs."

Some sports include a measure of violence that is held in check by the rules of fair play and by officials who can enforce penalties or regulate the players' behavior to some extent. However, the violence below the surface can often erupt, and violent events involving professional athleteseither on or off the playing fieldbecome major news stories covered by news and entertainment organizations in addition to the sports media. The 200405 NBA season was marred by a huge brawl during a game between the Detroit Pistons and the Indiana Pacers; the fracas spilled into the stands, resulting in the involvement of both spectators and players. Several players received long suspensions, and the entire season took place under the cloud of the melee. Another large basketball brawl, resulting in the ejection of ten players, took place during a December 2006 NBA game between the Denver Nuggets and the New York Knicks.

However, basketball is not alone in contending with image problems stemming from extended media coverage of the actions of its players. In October 2005 several members of the NFL's Minnesota Vikings were allegedly involved in a party aboard a chartered boat that erupted into a drunken sex orgy. In August 2007 Michael Vick (1980) of the Atlanta Falcons was suspended indefinitely by the NFL after he pleaded guilty to felony charges stemming from his involvement in an illegal dog-fighting ring. According to author Michael MacCambridge in the New York Times (September 16, 2007,, such incidents result from the unique position athletes are afforded within U.S. society. In MacCambridge's view, "There is a tremendous amount of money, free time and scrutiny in the lives of most pro football players, and the combination is more pronounced and more combustible than it was a generation ago." Vick's suspension indicated a no-nonsense response from Roger Goodell (1959), who in his first year as commissioner of the NFL instituted a strict code of conduct for players and coaches.