If you believe the league’s numbers — and we’re still skeptical, to put it kindly — the NBA was a long way from turning a profit, they predicted a $300 million loss last year.
A few months into the new collective bargaining agreement that is far more favorable to the owners (no matter what Mark Cuban thinks), the league has not turned those losses around. At an All-Star Weekend press conference Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver said that the league will not turn a profit this year and may not next year.
It seems odd to say that at a time when NBA television ratings are skyrocketing and attendance is up overall. The players have taken pay cuts to lower costs. So costs are down, the NBA’s popularity is booming and profits are not?
Henry Abbott went into more detail and shows why there is some logic to that at TrueHoop.
The explanation from the league is that the cuts in player costs roughly match the losses from last year. But this year the league says there were an additional $200 million in losses related to the lockout, for instance due to lost ticket revenue and corporate sponsorships that didn’t happen.
More importantly, popularity only equals big changes in revenue over years. The most obvious way that happens is with more lucrative national TV deals, but the old deals are still in place for two more years. High TV ratings have not meant new TV revenues for the league. Corporate sponsorships similarly take time to develop.
Where the popularity will really show is in local television and other media deals, particularly the national broadcast rights which are up in 2016. But the league is right, it’s a year or several years before those eyeballs can be converted to cash. Now, if we’re having this same discussion if five years, if the league can’t turn all those additional eyeballs into profits, then they are doing it wrong.