Four top sports business stories of 2016

It’s become extremely popular to deem the year 2016 as “the worst” when it comes to issues such as celebrity deaths, politics, and any other issue you can think of. However, when it comes to sports business, there were quite a few notable pleasant surprises, as well as some ongoing issues that will have lasting impacts.

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

1. NBA and NBPA agree to new CBA

The most recent topic on the list and one of the year’s better sports business stories is the world’s best professional basketball league finding a way to avoid a work stoppage until at least the middle of the next decade. With the mutual option to opt out of the current deal, it was imperative that the two sides find a way to come together to ensure business as usual for the foreseeable future. The new deal includes language intended to reduce the wear and tear on the players, determine procedures for new technologies, and increase some salary categories by as much as 45 percent.

2. MLB surges with Cubs World Series run and new CBA

It took 108 years and extra-innings against another team facing a championship drought, but the Chicago Cubs are World Series champions. Much to the delight of MLB and its media partners, the Cubs and Indians championship runs delivered fantastic ratings throughout the regular and postseasons. FOX Sports, which owns a portion of the media rights for the MLB postseason particularly saw a huge benefit as the Cubs delivered record ratings on FS1 during the NLCS. Once the World Series rolled around, the former lovable losers battle against the Indians destroyed everything in its path, including the NFL. MLB continuing its run of labor peace with its new CBA put the cherry on top of the sundae for a league poised to ride the excitement of a great crop of young players and an open championship window for one of its most popular teams.

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

3. NFL sees ratings dip

2016 saw the sports world’s most successful league begin to deflate a bit. Whether the culprit was a uniquely captivating electoral season, the aforementioned excitement surrounding a historic baseball season, social issues coming to the forefront, or the league’s own missteps and PR issues, for the first time in awhile, the NFL was no longer Teflon. As the regular season ends and ratings darlings such as the Cowboys, Packers, and Patriots make their move, the league has seen a bit of a resurgence on the ratings front. However, it remains to be seen whether the overall trends of cord cutting and a perceived decline in quality of match-ups and over-saturation will continue to have a negative impact on future seasons.

4. Cord-cutting continues its impact

The rise in cable prices and the growing influence of millennials on the marketplace have created a somewhat precarious situation for the traditional sports business media rights landscape. As the Fields of Green discussed, ESPN as at an 11-year low in terms of subscribers at the same time media rights expenses continue to increase. The means and ways of consumption shifting toward digital and the omnipresence of over-the-top options have broken one of the last levies protecting cable companies, access to live sports content. Options such as Playstation Vue, SlingTV, and the newly launched DirecTV Now offer consumers alternatives to traditional cable through skinny bundles that include live sports channels ESPN, FS1, and many others. With each league offer its games directly to consumers through digital packages as well, 2016 continued the paradigm shift for content consumption.