Bulls of the Week
When it comes to the annual cycle of the stock market of sport, the NHL launched its latest “fan IPO” this week, opening its 2019-2020 regular season.
All 31 teams will have played Saturday night, with the projected Stanley Cup finalists — the Tampa Bay Lightning from the Eastern Conference and the Vegas Golden Knights from the Western Conference — both opening with wins Wednesday.
The NHL goes into its new season with at least three more years of labour peace after both the league and the players association agreed not to reopen the collective bargaining agreement. It’s arguably the first time since the late 1980s — before the lockouts of 1994, 2005 and 2012 — that the NHL has had such a promising labour climate.
Yet no one has had a more bullish week than Russell Wilson and the 4-1 Seattle Seahawks.
The multi-dimensional Seattle quarterback — in the best statistical start of his eight-year career — was at the helm for two important divisional wins. Wilson and the Seahawks handled the Arizona Cardinals with ease on the road last Sunday and then four days later held on at home to defeat the Los Angeles Rams 30-29 in one of the most entertaining episodes ever of Thursday Night Football.
Wilson’s stock hasn’t been this high since his back-to-back Super Bowl appearances (the win in 2014 and the squandered opportunity in 2015).
He’s the highest-paid player in the NFL at an average annual salary of US$35-million on a new four-year, $140M deal done last spring. The Seahawks, meanwhile, continue to rise on the Forbes magazine valuation rankings, up eight per cent over last year and now 15th i n the NFL with an enterprise value of $2.775B.
A big chunk of that is market value, playing in the high-tech hub that is arguably the most fertile sport market in North America.
Bears of the Week
Coming out of a regular season that was low on pennant races and drama — and on the basis of early TV numbers in the post-season — Major League Baseball may be missing out on the opportunity to showcase its best teams and players on the road to the World Series.
The past week included the two wild-card games, sudden-victory scenarios that have typically proven to be excellent hooks for casual fans to get on the baseball bandwagon. Yet TV numbers were down 24 per cent to 31 per cent for those games this year.
The better barometer may be Friday (Oct. 4 ). It’s the biggest day of the year in terms of baseball television reach, with four divisional games stacked on top of one another on the traditional quadruple-header Friday.
At least 10 hours of playoff baseball roll out on TNT and FOX on a key day that comes after the regular season was down 10 per cent in viewership and 1.7 per cent in attendance (with even greater declines in Canada due to the also-ran status of this year’s Toronto Blue Jays).
If you didn’t catch any of the wall-to-wall action Friday, you’ve established yourself as a marginal fan, simply because baseball is difficult to miss this weekend.
And that’s the challenge for MLB and a fan base that is the oldest of the five major North American leagues.
The Sport Market on TSN Radio rates and debates the bulls and bears of sport business. Join Tom Mayenknecht Saturdays from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. for a behind-the-scenes look at the sport business stories that matter most to fans.
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