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Football, baseball pass on weekend play

Cancellations economic impact enormous

NEW YORK — The National Football League has canceled all of its games for the second week of the season, triggering Major League Baseball to also postpone all of its games until Monday, and all of the college football conferences to either postpone or scrap all of their weekend games.

The economic impact of these cancellations will be enormous, but sports analysts echoed David Carter, a principal in the Sports Business Group, who said, “It’s almost impossible to get your hands around a meaningful dollar figure.”

Neal Pilson, head of his own sports consultancy and former president of CBS Sports, said it will be difficult to gauge how much the loss of NFL games will affect ABC, CBS, Fox and ESPN. He suggested the NFL may well reorganize its schedule to keep the season from running into February. “We don’t know yet whether the NFL might take one of the Sunday regional games and create five Friday-night dates later in the season,” he said

If that happened, CBS would get two of the Friday games because it had a Sunday doubleheader scheduled for Sunday. The NFL would dole out one primetime Friday game each to ABC, Fox and ESPN to help compensate them for the games they’re losing in mid-September.

Another potential revenue-generator, said Carter, would be for the NFL to add a minute or two of commercial time to each game once they resume on the networks.

Although the nets are losing games for this Sunday and Monday, they’re saving on production costs, which run into six figures on Sunday afternoons because CBS and Fox cover all of the regional games.

Pilson said he doesn’t rule out the possibility of the NFL negotiating a cutback in network license fees, which average $1.2 billion a year, by 1/16th of the regular season as another form of compensation. “The NFL is not free to cancel games, no matter what the reason,” he said.

Avoiding backlash

There are so many intangibles that can’t be quantified in dollar terms, Carter said. “What would’ve happened,” he continued, “if the games had gone ahead and were perceived as callous opportunism? An advertiser backlash could’ve resulted, as well as ill will in the sports community.”

The economic consequences for baseball are even more complicated than those for football, Pilson said. Only three of the 91 games postponed between Tuesday and Sunday are nationally distributed: the Fox network’s Saturday afternoon game, the Thursday night Fox Family contest and the Saturday night game on FX.

Most of the rest of the games are on regional sports nets or local TV stations. These losses could be made up on the regionals, Pilson said, by teams adding games for cablecasting in future years.

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