On May 1, ESPN reported that “the sudden disappearance of sports will erase at least $12 billion in revenue and hundreds of thousands of jobs, an economic catastrophe that will more than double if the college football and NFL schedules are wiped out this fall by the coronavirus pandemic, an analysis conducted for ESPN shows.”
While the worst fears haven’t been realized — the NFL opened its 2020 season in September with a showdown between (Super Bowl champs) the Kansas City Chiefs and the Houston Texans — the outlook across the pantheon of live sports is anything but settled as November 2020 begins.
College football is a mixed bag, as Sporting News reported in late August that two Power 5 conferences had already canceled the fall sports season by late summer.
Baseball is similarly striking out, with Los Angeles Dodgers President and CEO Stan Kasten telling CNBC this week: “It’s extraordinary. It’s certainly not anything that anyone could plan for. It’s going to take years to catch up.”
For context, CNBC added that “the Dodgers led MLB in attendance in the 2019 season, with almost four million tickets sold, according to the statistics website Baseball Reference.”
NFL, NBA, MLB Still on ‘Injured’ List
As Big Ten basketball schools and Major League Baseball (MLB) were reduced to something resembling live team play, the disappointments followed earlier bad news from the NBA.
As PYMNTS reported in June, “league officials will keep players and staff in a ‘bubble,’ quarantined away from the rest of society. ‘While the COVID-19 pandemic presents formidable challenges, we are hopeful of finishing the season in a safe and responsible manner based on strict protocols now being finalized with public health officials and medical experts,’ the NBA recently said in a statement.” The “2020 NBA Bubble” is located in Florida’s Disney World.
Where does all of this leave sports fans? Hard to say, but probably not in the stands for a while.
As The New York Times reported in mid-September: “The NFL last week released a full schedule of games that on the surface included no obvious backup plan in case the pandemic prevents the season from starting on Sept. 10,” adding that “the odds that the league will be able to keep to its schedule are decreasing by the day.”
The Dodgers aren’t much more upbeat about baseball’s odds, with Kasten telling CNBC that while he remains hopeful about “fans back in Dodger Stadium for the 2021 season,” he added that “I think we may be among the later jurisdictions” where fans are permitted because “California has been very strict on allowing any mass gatherings.”
Online Betting, Game Platforms Pick up Sporting Gauntlet
The pandemic has already moved much of the sports action online, following the digital migrations of most other types of live engagement like concerts and casino gaming.
PYMNTS recently reported that the Minnesota Vikings “became the latest pro sports organization to sign with GameOn Technology, a San Francisco-based conversational commerce company that has taken chat to a new level. While most chat conversations have been associated with customer service issues, GameOn has developed a proprietary chat operating system geared toward customer engagement (or in this case, fan engagement), which will ideally lead to a purchase.”
On the wagering front, with casinos cautiously reopening according to state-by-state dictates, the online powerhouses are wasting no time in seizing the opportunity.
“DraftKings announced on Wednesday (Sept. 16) that it’s signed an exclusive multi-year arrangement with the New York Giants NFL team, making DraftKings the franchise’s ‘official sports betting, iGaming and daily fantasy operator,’” PYMNTS recently reported. “It’s the latest in a series of such deals to make online fantasy sportsbook in some ways as much fun (and as lucrative) as betting on real teams in more normal times.”