Forbes just revealed its Fab 40 list of the most valuable brands in sports among businesses, teams, events, and athletes. Predictably, chart toppers included some very recognizable multi-billion dollar brands such as Nike, ESPN, the Super Bowl and Adidas.
The preponderance of those that made the list fell squarely in the middle market. Examples: WWE’s annual WrestleMania ($10.9 million gross revenue) Kentucky Derby Week (estimated near $100 million) the Yankees (estimated $461 million) and LeBron James ($53 million in revenue from endorsements alone).
However, there were some midmarket standouts that, while successful, are far from household names.
MLBAM - In the rapidly evolving world of broadcasting, New York City-based MLB Advanced Media is carving out a niche for itself in a Swiss Army knife-like way. Though its roots are in major league baseball, indeed its founding in 2000 launched MLB.com and quickly added live streaming games. From there, MLBAM tapped into a media movement that would grow to an average of 125 million games a year broadcast across more than 400 devices.
The company didn’t rest on streaming baseball games for long. It provided streams for such big events as March Madness and Wrestlemania. MLBAM also powers the backend infrastructure for WatchESPN. Back in June, the company started 120 Sports, featuring two-minute news segments from partners such as Time Inc. and NASCAR. In addition to all that, MLBAM got into the ticketing business when it acquired Tickets.com and is honing the technology to allow fans to get optimum seats thanks to a partnership with Experience. Don’t forget the analytics, MLBAM serves up baseball stats that track and measure every play. For all this, MLBAM is expected to bring in $800 million in revenue this year.
YES - Regional networks are the stealth players of the business of sports. Launched in 2002, The YES Network showcases local TV coverage of the New York Yankees and Brooklyn Nets basketball. It’s available in about 9 million homes in New York, Connecticut, New Jersey and parts of Pennsylvania. Beyond the region, broadcasts are available through some cable operators.
The company’s recent growth caught the eye of 21st Century Fox, which bought a 49% stake in YES in 2012 for $584 million. In 2013 YES posted revenues of $540 million, the highest estimated revenue for a regional sports network, according to Forbes. Revenues should continue to rise, in part thanks to the highly publicized retirement season for New York Yankee Derek Jeter. The network got a boost over the last three months, averaging 73,000 viewing households, up from 58,000 last year.
This January, Fox upped their holdings to 80% for an undisclosed sum. Yankee Global Entertainment owns the remaining 20%.
NESN - Launched in 1984, the New England Sports Network is one of the pioneers of regional sports broadcasting that has grown to reach over 4 million homes in the six state region. The network is owned by the Boston Red Sox and Boston Bruins and features telecasts of their games as well as other locally produced programs and events including Beanpot Hockey, Hockey East, Champions Cup Boston Tennis, Minor League Baseball and the Little League New England Regional Tournament.
Last month, NESN debuted NESN Sports Update, a 20-minute sports show designed to fill fans in on late-night games played by the Red Sox, Bruins, Patriots or Celtics. Last year’s World Series victory by the Red Sox boosted ratings and revenues on the network which amounted to $230 million, according to SNL Kagan.