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Why Can’t Cubs Fans Watch Scheduled Cubs Broadcasts on WGN?

2015 April 26
by Phil Miller

In January, Cubs fans were told this:

 The Chicago Cubs and Tribune Broadcasting’s WGN-TV today announced a new 5-year agreement under which the local station will televise 45 games annually beginning with the 2015 season. This new agreement continues a broadcasting partnership that spans more than 60 years. Specific terms of the agreement were not released.

I get WGN via DirecTV and have been able to watch Cubs games on WGN in the past when they’ve been scheduled.  However, that’s not the case this year.  Today on WGN they are showing a movie called “Out of Sight” even though the Cubs vs. Reds game is scheduled to be on WGN.

Luckily, I have the MLB.TV package and can watch the game.  It’s on right now and the WGNSports logo is on the scorebox that is shown throughout the game, but the game is not being shown on WGN on DirecTV at my location.

Do any readers know a reason why I (a person who lives in Minnesota) cannot receive the Cubs broadcasts on WGN via DirecTV.  Are they only shown locally on WGN in Chicago?

The Mis-measure of Inequality

2015 April 24
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by Victor Matheson

Growing income inequality may be one of the most important economic issues of the next several decades. Despite a growing concentration of income and wealth, however, it seems that no one is willing to actually call themselves or anyone else rich.

Take this story about the magnificent Stephen Curry from EPSN’s Grantland, for example. Stephen, the son of NBA star Dell Curry, has his childhood described in this way,

…the house his parents built in 1996, the year Steph turned 8, on a 16-acre plot a few minutes’ drive from the center of Charlotte, North Carolina. It’s a big house, six bedrooms. Steph’s father, Dell, played shooting guard for the local NBA franchise, the Hornets, and a couple of years earlier he’d won the league’s sixth man of the year award; the Currys saw this as their dream home, designed it themselves, had cabinets flown in from Africa… still, it’s possible to imagine the Currys’ life there, the upper-middle-class childhoods resplendently sprawling over the place.

Upper-middle class?  Seriously?

By the time Curry’s family built the house in 1996, Dell had already earned over $7 million from a basketball career that would eventually make him nearly $20 million in salary alone.

The median worker in the US earned $272,533 over the 14 years during which Stephen’s dad played in the NBA, or roughly 1/72nd of what Dell Curry earned.

Stephen had an extremely privileged childhood that 99.9% of kids can’t even dream of. Yes, he was, say it together, rich. This doesn’t take away from the fact that he used the advantages of his birth to become, perhaps, the best player in the NBA.

But Stephen Curry, upper-middle class kid? Please…

Tax Exemptions and Subsidies for Athletic Facilities Face Opposition in Minnesota

2015 April 15
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by Phil Miller

From my local paper (The Mankato Free Press):

In a setback for Mankato and North Mankato’s effort to extend their local sales taxes, a key legislator has stripped the regional athletic facility spending from the House version of the bill.

Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa, said Tuesday his fellow Republicans wanted to stop the proliferation of sales tax-funded athletic facilities.

Cities such as Rochester, St. Cloud and Marshall have used sales taxes to build ice rinks, gyms and other athletic amenities.

Drazkowski, chair of the property tax and local government finance subcommittee, said Rochester’s use of the sales tax generated “outrage,” especially among visitors who came into the city to shop. He said cities end up “taxing neighbors to provide themselves a big athletic facility.”

In other related news in the state.

Dr. Bill McGuire, who owns the Minnesota United FC, said the group is seeking a property tax exemption and a sales tax break on construction materials for the new stadium near the MinneapolisFarmers Market. The new stadium would host about 20 professional games a year.

The ownership group would pay $30 million to buy the land, a $100 million franchise fee and $120 million to build the new, open-air stadium.

Despite the tax exemptions — which could amount to $3 million in the case of the sales taxes — McGuire characterized the deal as having “no public subsidy whatsoever.” The amount of deferred property taxes had not been estimated.

“No public subsidy whatsoever” may be technically true, but a property tax exemption and a sales tax break on construction materials would qualify as an implicit subsidy.

“Termination Risk and Agency Problems: Evidence from the NBA”

2015 April 7
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by Phil Miller

Here’s a link to new working paper by Alma Cohen, Nadav Levy, and Roy Sasson.  Here is the abstract.

When agents face a risk of termination by the principal in the short term, they may under-invest in projects whose results would be realized only in the long term. We use data on decisions made by NBA coaches to study how risk of termination by the principal affects the behavior of agents. Because letting a rookie play produces long-term benefits on which coaches with a shorter investment horizon might place lower weight, we hypothesize that higher termination risk might lead to lower rookie participation. Consistent with this hypothesis, we find that, during the period of the NBA’s 1999 collective bargaining agreement (CBA) and controlling for the characteristics of rookies and their teams, higher termination risk was associated with lower rookie participation and that this association was driven by important games. We also find that the association does not exist for second-year players and that the identified association disappeared when the 2005 CBA gave team owners stronger incentives to monitor the performance of rookies and preclude their underuse.

Thanks to Lucian Bebchuk for the pointer.

Don’t Forget the Leakages

2015 April 2
by Phil Miller

I think it’s well-known among our readers that the staff members of TSE aren’t big fans of “economic impact” studies… the a-priori kind, such as the one discussed in this LA Times article.

As  plans for an NFL stadium in Carson move toward a vote this spring, supporters released a study Wednesday night detailing how the project could benefit the South Bay city.

Two NFL teams playing in a new stadium could generate more than half a billion dollars in spending, enough to support nearly 9,000 full- and part-time jobs once construction is completed, according to a study paid for by the San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders .

Yesterday a book rep asked me why big-time sports aren’t boons to local economies.  Today, a colleague asked me the same thing.  My answer was basically as follows:

These sort of studies are routinely panned by many independent economists, who note most money spent at football games is local spending redirected from other forms of entertainment, be it a baseball game or a night at the movies.

Victor Matheson makes a guest appearance.

“An NFL franchise has very, very little net economic impact on L.A.’s economy,” said Victor Matheson, an economist who studies sports at College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass.

Another thing I’d add is that my guess is that very few of the football players, coaches, training staff, etc. would live in Carson, Ca. meaning their incomes would “leave” the Carson area.  So while there may be quite an injection of spending in Carson from having one or two football teams located there, there will also be quite a leakage as well.

It’s Still Good to be the Cupcake

2015 March 30
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by Phil Miller

The demand for cupcakes keeps increasing and, along with it, the payout from playing a road game at a major college football program.  From the Columbia Daily Tribune:

In November, Missouri agreed to play two home games against Eastern Michigan, a Mid-American Conference school with a 6-30 record over the past three seasons. The Tigers will pay the Eagles $1.3 million to play at Faurot Field on Sept. 10, 2016, and $1.1 million for a game Sept. 26, 2020.

In February, the Tigers agreed to a $1.3 million home game against Idaho on Oct. 21, 2017. The Vandals play in the Sun Belt and have a 5-42 record over the past four seasons.

Both Eastern Michigan and Idaho will receive 400 complimentary tickets and the ability to purchase up to 1,500 more for their games.

Missouri will pay Southeast Missouri State $385,000 for a game Sept. 5 and $425,000 for one on Sept. 21, 2019. Missouri State, coached by former Tigers defensive coordinator Dave Steckel, will get $400,000 for coming to Memorial Stadium on Sept. 2, 2017.

It’s still good to be the cupcake, at least from a payout standpoint.

Just in time for March Madness

2015 March 16
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by Victor Matheson

Just in time for March Madness we have two views on paying college athletes.

The first is an excellent summary of the state of college athletics by Allen Sanderson and John Siegfried in the latest issue of the Journal of Economic Perspectives. “The Case for Paying College Athletes” is available for free download from the American Economic Association website and is definitely worth a read.

In a more humorous (and more profane) vein, it’s hard to beat Last Week Tonight with John Oliver talking on Sunday about “The NCAA“.

Sports Economics Now Has JEL Classification Codes

2015 February 20
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by Phil Miller

The American Economic Association now has JEL classification codes for Sports Economics and subareas within the field.  Here are the codes:

Z2  – Sports Economics

Z20  – General

Z21  – Industry Studies

Z22  – Labor Issues

Z23  – Finance

Z28  – Policy

Z29  – Other

In an email from Peter Von Allmen, the president of the North American Association of Sports Economists,  even though the codes will not be up on the AEA website for awhile, researchers can begin using these codes immediately to classify their research.

It wasn’t all that long ago where Sports Economics research wasn’t taken as seriously as research in International Economics, Labor Economics, Industrial Organization, etc.  This is not to say that there have been no economists who have taken sports economic research seriously over the years and no important contributions from the field to Economics as a whole.  Many Sports Economics papers have been published in top tier journals over the past half century.  The field has its own journal, the Journal of Sports Economics, and many journals have published papers in Sports Economics.  However, in many circles, sports economics research was seen as fun research and not something that serious researchers would pursue as their main area.   These codes are validation that Sports Economics is not just fun.  It’s an interesting and important field within the discipline of Economics.

Sports Econ Success Kid

Thanks to all who worked to get this done, particularly Tony Krautmann who got the ball rolling last summer by suggesting this at last summer’s NAASE meeting at the WEAI’s.

Update: I forgot to give a HT to Peter Von Allmen.

Analyzing 2014 College Football Television Ratings

2015 February 9
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by Phil Miller

The following is a guest post by Dr. Dan Kuester, the Director of Undergraduate Studies and the Roger Trenary Chair for Excellence in Economic Instruction at Kansas State University.  Dan and I were graduate students at the University of Missouri back in the 90’s.


I’m a bit obsessed with conference realignment and the influence that big money television contracts have had on college football.  Ever since the NCAA lost the 1984 Supreme Court decision which stated they were in violation of antitrust law, the influence of television contracts in college athletics has grown dramatically.

I have seen this influence from a couple of different perspectives as I am an alumnus of Missouri who has taught at Kansas State University for nearly eleven years.  Fans of those respective schools typically have very different views of those schools which have moved conferences for a perceived better deal.  (I do highly recommend “The 100 Year Decision” by R Bowen Loftin for a very insightful perspective on Texas A&M’s move to the SEC).

While some folks continue to “cut the cord”, television contracts (which are at least somewhat ratings driven) are a huge source of revenues for all sixty six BCS level institutions (I am including BYU and Notre Dame). recently put together an infographic showing the ratings averages for each of these sixty six schools.  Certainly, the author enjoyed sharing the results which showed the somewhat predictable SEC dominance on the ratings and The Big 12 lagging behind in fifth place out of the five BCS Conferences.

The University of Texas tied for 34th in the television ratings while A&M placed 12th , the type of news Aggie fans enjoy a great deal.  The highest-ranked Big 12 team was Oklahoma at #26 while SEC teams made up twelve of the Top 25 spots.  Also, in the twenty-five most-watched football games this season (not counting bowls), SEC teams participated twenty three times, Big Ten teams participated eleven times, ACC teams participated eleven times, while Big 12 and Pac 12 teams were only represented one time each as were Army, Navy, and Notre Dame.  It is fairly obvious that the Big 12 did not have any single game that drew huge ratings.  The highest rated Big 12 game (TCU vs. West Virginia with 4.43 million viewers) finished well outside of the Top 25 rated broadcasts.  My analysis of the data also suggests that the relationship between CBS and the SEC is very beneficial for the conference even as a “loss leader” as nine of the twenty five most viewed games were on CBS.

As an economist, when I study data like this at I immediately want to make sure what is being looked at is an “apples to apples” comparison.  The thing that immediately stood out to me was there are a number of games on stations like ESPNU or FS1 or FS2 that bring down the average rating for a team dramatically.

Obviously, a complete picture of television ratings should include all twelve (or more) games that a team participates in.  Unfortunately, this is not something we can figure out because of a lack of access to all relevant data.  I would suggest that games on the SEC Network or the Big Ten Network are drawing considerably more viewers than a game on the Longhorn Network. This in turn probably dwarfs the number of fans who are watching a game on K-State HDTV, which is internet-only.  But since games on all of these avenues (along with the Pac 12 Network, regional Fox Sports networks, syndicated ACC games, pay per view games, etc.) are not rated, it seems unfair to cherry-pick the games that warrant a broadcast on CBS, ABC, ESPN, FOX or other major networks and only count those games as an indicator of the popularity of a team.  For example, Florida ranks seventh in the ratings compiled, but they were only on a rated television broadcast five times this year in the eleven games they played.  Meanwhile, Oklahoma was on a rated broadcast eleven times in the twelve games they played.  Clearly, if games against Kansas and Iowa State were on a station that did not report TV ratings, OU’s average television rating would go up fairly dramatically.

In order to attempt to correct for this bias, I assumed that there were no viewers for games that were not rated telecasts and then recalculated the average rating per team.  I realize that this is an imperfect method but for the most part (with notable exceptions such as the Texas A&M vs. South Carolina game on the SEC Network) the games that do not warrant a broadcast on an established network will draw a small enough viewing audience that assuming a value of zero for these games will only bias these numbers slightly.  I would encourage suggestions as to other ways to correct for this bias, but I did not want to start guessing television audiences for these non-televised games.  I do feel that the teams that are most adversely affected by this correction are SEC and Big Ten teams as the SEC and Big Ten Networks are probably drawing the most viewers for games where ratings are not available.

The TexAgs data suggests the following average ratings (I believe I have replicated this correctly).

  1. SEC = 4.52 Mil 2.  B10 =2.69 Mil, 3. ACC=2.64 Mil, 4. P 12 = 2.23 Mil, 5.  B12 = 2.01 Mil

The adjusted data suggests the following ratings:

1.  SEC = 2.58 Mil,  2.  B10 = 1.62 Mil,   3.  B12 = 1.57 Mil,   4.  ACC = 1.41 Mil,  5.  P12 = 1.34 Mil

Finally in the original data there are twelve SEC teams in the Top 25, seven Big Ten teams, three Pac 12 teams, two ACC teams, and one independent team.  In the adjusted ratings there are ten SEC teams, five Big Ten teams, five Big 12 teams, three Pac 12 teams, one ACC team and one independent.  This data will have a slight “pro Big 12 bias” as over seventy eight percent of Big 12 games were rated while other conferences are between fifty three and sixty percent rated games.  To reference the examples I pointed out above in these adjusted ratings Oklahoma finished 15th in average TV rating (up from 26th) while Florida finished 22nd (down from 7th).

Another important note about these adjusted ratings is BYU looks a little better by comparison when one considers they were on television nine times last year on a rated network.  Their adjusted ratings would put them right in the middle of the ACC rankings.  I personally feel (possibly a football only member) they would be a strong potential addition to the Big 12.

All of my data is available at my webpage (see the bottom of my page for the links )  and any errors in calculating the number of games each team had rated are my own.  Here is the revised Top 25.

(Assumes no viewers for non-rated games)

Team                           # of average Viewers  Conference      # of rated games

  1. Alabama                               6.02                 SEC                 11/13 = 84.6%
  2. Florida State                        5.73                 ACC                12/13 = 92.3%
  3. Notre Dame                         4.20                 IND                 12/12 = 100%
  4. Auburn                                  3.89                 SEC                 9/12 = 75%
  5. Ohio State                            3.81                 B10                 10/13 = 76.9%
  6. Mississippi                          3.35                 SEC                 10/12 = 83.3%
  7. Mississippi State                3.04                 SEC                 8/12 = 66.7%
  8. Michigan State                   2.71                 B10                 8/12 = 66.7%
  9. Georgia                                 2.62                 SEC                 7/12 = 58.3%
  10. LSU                                        2.62                 SEC                 8/12 = 66.7%
  11. Texas A&M                          2.56                 SEC                 8/12 = 66.7%
  12. Michigan                              2.52                 B10                 8/12 = 66.7%
  13. Oregon                                  2.31                 P12                  10/13 = 76.9%
  14. Missouri                               2.28                 SEC                 8/13 = 61.5%
  15. Oklahoma                            2.17                 B12                 11/12 = 91.7%
  16. Southern California           2.11                 P12                  10/12 = 83.3%
  17. Wisconsin                            2.08                 B10                 10/13 = 76.9%
  18. UCLA                                     2.07                 P12                  10/12 = 83.3%
  19. Nebraska                               2.01                 B10                 8/12 = 66.7%
  20. Baylor                                     1.97                 B12                 11/12 = 91.7%
  21. Arkansas                               1.94                 SEC                 8/12 = 66.7%
  22. Florida                                    1.93                 SEC                 5/11 = 45.5%
  23. TCU                                         1.80                 B12                 10/12 = 83.3%
  24. West Virginia                       1.73                 B12                 9/12 = 75%
  25. Ks State and Texas (tie)     1.72                 B12                 10/12 = 83.3%

 Avg Ratings according to rated Data                   Avg TV Ratings “adjusted” 

  1. SEC = 4.52 M                                                       1.  SEC = 2.58 M
  2. B10 =2.69 M                                                         2.  B10 = 1.62 M
  3. ACC = 2.64 M                                                      3.  B12 = 1.57 M
  4. P12 = 2.23 M                                                        4.  ACC = 1.41 M
  5. B12 = 2.01 M                                                        5.  P12 = 1.34 M


Obama takes on Sports Owners

2015 February 3
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by Victor Matheson

President Obama’s proposed budget to Congress presents a fairly strong challenge to Republicans. It redistributes income from the rich to the middle class often by eliminating loopholes that benefits the wealthy. Spectator sports will take two big hits if this budget gets passed.

First, college sports teams will no longer be able to package sports tickets with a deductible charitable donation to the college or university. Currently many teams require season ticket holders to make a donation to the college in order to purchase season tickets. Why charge, say, a $1000 donation plus $500 for season tickets instead of just charging $1500 for the tickets in the first place? Because the $1000 is tax deductible for the purchaser allowing the season ticket holder to get back $200 or $300 dollars on their tax returns. Basically, this works like a mail-in rebate for season ticket holders paid for by the federal government allowing colleges to charge more for tickets.

Second, municipalities will no longer be able to issue tax exempt bonds for stadium construction if private teams are the primary recipients of the revenues of the stadium. One might call this the “Levi Stadium Tax Avoidance Repeal Act”. While the new 49ers stadium was almost entirely privately financed and is operated by the 49ers, the stadium is still technically owned by the municipality. An examination of the financing of this stadium by Robert Baumann, Debra O’Connor, and myself found that this financing arrangement works out to a roughly $200 million tax subsidy for the stadium despite almost no direct taxpayer subsidies.

Overall, sports economists have long been critical of both of these hidden subsidies for sports and are just happy that we are so influential with the President.