With the conclusion of the 21-22 EuroLeague Regular Season, and more than half the teams already eliminated out of competition, reports have started to emerge regarding the payments EL clubs are about to receive. Mozzart Sport has come up with a list of how much all 18 clubs are bound to receive from the regular season, reported by Djordje Matic. That includes their revenues from EuroLeague’s market pool and competition bonuses both.
Euroleague Basketball, or ECA (Euroleague Commercial Assets), the governing body of EuroLeague and EuroCup, suspending Russian clubs this season as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, makes this current season’s financial distribution way more complicated than it usually is. In sporting terms, the controversial decision to remove all the played and to-be-played results involving Russian clubs is already finalised. However the financial consequences of this decision is apparently not yet certain. Per Mozzart Sport’s aforementioned reporting, whether and how to distribute the money involving the matches against the three Russian clubs is not yet determined and the total sum of money at play in this regard is 3.552.000 euros.
How Are EuroLeague Payments Back To Clubs Structured?
One of the biggest misconceptions regarding how and what type of money EuroLeague teams in any given season receive, is the myth that the champion only earns a million euros from the competition. This myth stems from the fact that EuroLeague’s championship bonus is actually a million euros, however the champion team already receives money before that. With the omission of the latter, it is often made seem like the competition rewards their champion team with just a million euros.
Before each EuroLeague season, based on a calculation of the various revenue sources the league has, considering the relevant contracts (media rights, sponsorships, etc.) in effect for that season, how much payout EuroLeague teams of that season are going to receive is determined. €35 million was the total purse to be paid out to the clubs for the 19-20 season until the season was first suspended in March 2020 and then cancelled, with the final six rounds in the regular season and the entire play-offs not being played at all. Which, as a result, left ECA in a situation to pay 14% of that money back to its commercial partners as rebate.
That was the precise reason that prompted me to come out with my own reading of EuroLeague’s gross financial mismanagement, through a lengthy but ultimately an insufficient Twitter thread in the grand scope of it.
For the past 2 years, a sizable portion of my time has been spent on financial, market and data reports and talking to relevant people regarding eurobball economy. I have reasons why but that’s not the subject today.
I hold back everything I absorb. But I’ll say some today.
— Uğur Yılmaz (@UYilmazz_) May 25, 2020
Although I’ve written this Twitter thread on the day of the announcement that 19-20 EuroLeague season was cancelled; the news itself was not any surprising for me. You see, the act of poor management in that case already happened prior to the decision. The decision to cancel the season was already a natural course of the voting, following a scandalous negotiation by ECA management, which merely represents its shareholder EuroLeague clubs. The negotiations in question were with ELPA, the recently founded EuroLeague Players’ Association. Of course, EuroLeague changing its competition format from a cup to a league format also laid the ground for a players’ union to be finally formed. In all the previous EuroLeague formats, the competition was a cup and/or a tournament and the leagues EuroLeague players were playing in, were the domestic leagues their respective clubs were competing in. 16-17 season truly marks EuroLeague actually becoming a basketball league and indirectly gets rid of the fragmentation of the leagues which makes a players’ union to be far more effective in practice. Presumably nobody would object to players unionising, who make up the majority of the labour force, if and when you see EuroLeague or club basketball at large as a business, which it absolutely is, even if it is also much more than that. And ECA was not only quick to recognise players’ union but also quick to involve ELPA in all kinds of matters that directly concern EuroLeague players. The decision on whether to continue the 19-20 EuroLeague season could only therefore be taken following an agreement between ECA representing the clubs and ELPA representing the players. Because no party was going to, or even could force the players to finish the remainder of the season in the situation the world was in the Spring of 2020. Ultimately the season was cancelled because the players didn’t want to play.
So, then, what exactly scandalous negotiations by the body representing the clubs mean in that case? Well, if the clubs wanted to resume the season, and of course they did, because they literally do not have one reason not to, ranging from financial to contractual and all other kinds of reasons; the body representing them should have come up with a proposal appealing to players. What ELPA got out of these negotiations was that the players would be paid 80% of their wages if the rest of the EuroLeague season was not to be played. But if the season was to re-start in some form, more of their wages would be paid by the clubs. And of course that makes perfect sense, after all, that 14% rebate ECA had to pay in the following season was a result of the broadcasters not receiving some of the product they paid for, ditto for sponsors and such. So if the season was to re-start in some form, at least some of that revenue would go to the clubs and then they could pay their players for performing in these matches that added further revenue. The scandalous part is that if the EuroLeague season was to start, the players would be paid 85% of their wages.
A good amount of the players had returned home following the suspension of the season. And here goes the management body of the clubs offering them a 5% increase in wages if they returned, gathered back with their teams, prepared for the remainder of the season following an untimely interruption and played basketball matches in empty halls when most of the world was in lockdown. Naturally, they chose to not complete the 19-20 season. Except, if you were playing in Spanish, German or Israeli Leagues. Because unlike EuroLeague; Liga ACB, Basketball Bundesliga and Israeli Basketball Premier League successfully re-started and completed their 19-20 seasons.
What happened with the 19-20 EuroLeague season is important to understand the structure of 21-22 EuroLeague payouts. There might have been a rebate of 14%, but EuroLeague revenue took a 30% hit as a result of 19-20 season’s cancellation. Quite honestly, I had expected the rebate figure to be higher but I wasn’t surprised by the 30% revenue hit EuroLeague took as a result of the cancellation. And, it’d be all fine and dandy had management come up with an appealing offer on behalf of the clubs, for their players to resume playing that season and if the players still refused to. No, EuroLeague took a 30% revenue hit because its management negotiated a 5% increase in players’ wages as to incentivise them to return, train and play.
How EuroLeague splits its payouts is similar to how UEFA does it for their own club competitions in football, at least in terms of its broad structure. This could also apply to other pan-European club competitions like CEV Champions League and EHF Champions League, but since their financial information are not as easily accessible as UEFA’s, I’ll stick to UEFA. The broad structure consists of payments coming from the market pool and the prize money. For the 19-20 EuroLeague season, the €35 million purse which was going to be paid to the clubs, had a 54% to 46% split. 54% coming from the market pool means that whichever country the EuroLeague club is from, and however much commercial revenue is coming from that country in the form of EuroLeague’s media rights sales and (regional) sponsorships from there, it is paid back to the club. Of course, if there are multiple clubs from that country, then they share their cut of the market pool. However EuroLeague did not just gave away their revenues back to the clubs this way, as 46% of such revenues were used for prize money. UEFA’s broad payout structure is the same, except UEFA famously leans a lot heavier on prize money than the market pool as a percentage of their total purse. UCL clubs are not getting about 2.7 million euros for a group stage win whenas EuroLeague champion gets a bonus of a million euros for the title solely because UCL is that much more popular and that much richer. But it’s also because UEFA takes the lucrative media rights sales from France, Germany, Italy, England, Spain and hand out vast majority of it through prize money rather than the market pool.
Cancellation of the 19-20 EuroLeague season and the subsequent 30% revenue loss changed this structure even more in favour of the market pool. For the 20-21 EuroLeague season, clubs agreed to change the total purse payout to be 79% from the market pool and 21% from prize money. The logic was that, if the season was interrupted again and/or some matches couldn’t have been played, the clubs would still receive some of their money because obviously the prize money payouts depend on the matches being played. This 79% to 21% split seems to have continued for this 21-22 EuroLeague season too, and it remains to be seen if and when the 54% – 46% split will come back.
21-22 EuroLeague Regular Season Payouts
Market Pool Payments in €
Maccabi Tel Aviv: 3,145,881
Olympiacos and Panathinaikos: 2,681,625
Real Madrid and Barcelona: 2,319,424
Anadolu Efes, Olimpia Milano and Fenerbahçe: 1,275,000:
Bayern München: 943,500
ASVEL and Žalgiris: 688,500
AS Monaco, Zenit, CSKA Moscow, UNICS Kazan, Crvena Zvezda and Alba Berlin: 200,000
The clubs who receive €200k from the market pool do so because they are not shareholders of ECA unlike the other clubs. CSKA is the only exception and there is an asterisk next their name on Mozzart Sport’s list. It is not clear for me whether CSKA is actually going to receive a downgraded €200k from the market pool, or not at all, and if so how is that all going to work out considering they own nearly 6% of ECA like the other 12 EuroLeague clubs which are going to retain their shares at least until after the 25-26 season.
The reason Maccabi Tel Aviv has the highest market pool payment is not because Israel is the most lucrative market, but because they don’t share their market pool income with another Israeli club. For instance, Panathinaikos and Olympiacos share the market pool cut of Greek TV rights which is at €10.5 million for the 21-22 season and the ACB clubs share the €15 million DAZN pays to broadcast EuroLeague in Spain. Israel’s broadcasting contract which started back in 16-17 with the format change ends after this season, and is at €5.3 million a season. Despite EuroLeague’s lower broadcasting income from Israel in comparison, Maccabi Tel Aviv doesn’t have to share their market pool income with another club, so they get to top the list. This is a payout phenomenon that is common to observe in UEFA’s club competitions as well.
Prize money earnings are applied on top of these market pool income and with the current state of reduced prize money share, that means clubs are given €37k per each regular season win and €70k per each quarter-final match win. And then Final Four bonuses are paid, where the 4th placed team receives a bonus of €150k, third placed team receives a bonus of €300k, runner ups receive a bonus of €500k and champion team receives a title bonus of one million euros.
However a careful look at these numbers clearly reveal that total purse to be given to the clubs is a lesser figure than even just the sums of broadcasting rights fees EuroLeague receives from the countries that have EuroLeague clubs in that season. Never mind other sources of EuroLeague revenue like sponsorships, some Final Four related revenue and so forth. In fact, I could say the total payout given back to the clubs is only slightly higher than half of EuroLeague’s revenue. However EuroLeague itself does not disclose the revenue percentage amount they are giving as payouts to the clubs.
There are probably a couple reasons for that, but it’s open to speculation. There is the IMG element in this equation. IMG’s joint venture with EuroLeague dictates, over the 10 year span of their joint venture, revenues above €630 million, thus on average €63 million per season, are going to be split between the two entities, with IMG taking 46% of the surplus revenue and ECA taking 54% of the surplus revenue. However, the specific revenue targets in each season is not known, and according to the revenue target they have, ECA might be bound to share some revenue with IMG. And by that I do not mean their surplus revenue agreement.
There is also the element of EuroCup. Whilst it is under the roof of ECA also, EuroCup’s revenue streams have been separated from EuroLeague’s a few years ago. However EuroCup is not profitable on its own. Well, not because sporting competitions are run for profit, but Mundo Deportivo reported EuroCup’s operational costs reach €7 million when its revenue is below even €3 million. Therefore that gap is covered with EuroLeague’s revenues. And since majority of ECA shareholders are EuroLeague clubs, especially after the pandemic struck their revenues harshly, a lot of them, if not all of them, do not want to subsidise EuroCup anymore. That seems to be the reason behind EuroCup cutting down to 20 teams from 24 and moving to its brand new competition format with the 21-22 season. And during the saga of clubs meeting to discuss ousting Jordi Bertomeu, it was initially reported Bertomeu conceded their financing of EuroCup in exchange to keep his position. Of course, even if that were to be valid reporting, it still did not prevent Bertomeu from being ousted with a 11-0 unanimous vote.
So, What Now?
Based on the rumoured successors of Jordi Bertomeu, I cannot personally think EuroLeague’s off-the-court mismanagement should come to an immediate stop. It’s not about the names per se, as much as what they are implying. Because that implication suggests there is not somebody who has the necessary vision and the unrelenting will to achieve adequate monetisation following decades of severe undermonetisation. Of course, it depends on what kind of management structure will follow, not just the names. If a basketball executive replaces Jordi Bertomeu, but the entire commercial operation is entrusted with ECA’s business development team (i.e. the executives who deal with the sponsorship side of things), then that’s a new management style that might yield more productive results to adequate monetisation of the product. This, I say, because sponsorships has been the only business operation of ECA that has been adequately monetised relative to the popularity of the product. And that is not by luck, it is rather the result of effective strategies taken such as widening the sponsorship portfolio with the stark split of central and regional EuroLeague sponsors, as well as non-monetary partnerships to boost exposure in secondary markets.
However reaching adequate monetisation is not only about who is in the management. And as gross of a financial regression ECA management has overseen in their long tenures, they are not solely responsible for European club basketball’s overall revenues being so awfully underwhelming.
Such ludicrous financial regression over such a long time alone should be enough for clubs to keep Jordi Bertomeu and Andrea Bassani away from the sport forever.
It’s 2020 now. They held their exact seats in EB management for two decades.
— Uğur Yılmaz (@UYilmazz_) May 25, 2020
Why and How European Club Basketball Economy Underwhelms
Since 2015, European club basketball faces two forces who each strangle its economy in very different ways. Before 2015, it used to be just the one. It’s not only because of underwhelming financial management by the executives of the competitions, but also because of this prolonging pressure on its neck applied by one of these forces, the other force was able to strangle its neck too.
These two stranglers are also ironically European club basketball’s closest comparisons in the world of professional sports. One of them is European football, the old strangler. The other is the NBA, the newer strangler. The crux of it all is that the new strangler is able to impose itself partially due to the old strangler’s pressure on European basketball’s neck. In fact, I’m confident the new strangler wouldn’t become one, if the old strangler wasn’t one. If this reads like an analogy that refers to football’s sheer dominance of sports consumption across Europe, I’d advise you to expect just a little better of this article. Because, no, of course I’m not going to make an argument saying if football wasn’t so dominant then basketball would be more popular across Europe which would have resulted in higher revenues and then not being so vulnerable against the NBA in their mutual battle over the supply of labour. No, this analogy refers to the market mechanics of audiovisual rights in Europe and the United States.
Before delving into how exactly European football undermines European basketball’s economy and how and why NBA benefits from it though, I think it’s worth mentioning why that even matters. Indeed, why should how much European basketball is able to monetise its products matter for us? Who cares? If we enjoy consuming a sports entity, we just enjoy it. Why is it worth even thinking about, never mind writing about it this much? Well, I cannot argue it should matter for anyone other than myself. I could only explain why it matters according to my view in all this.
As mentioned earlier, European club basketball’s identity is closest to European football and the NBA in the world of pro sports. The latter is obvious, as different as the FIBA and NBA rulesets are, as different as the refereeing often is and most importantly as different as the competition structures are which play profound roles in organically differentiating gameplay; it is still the same sport. And not only that but the personnel exchange between the NBA and European basketball is some sort of a busy labour channel that impacts both brands of basketball. However, because of all these stark differences between these two, European basketball is more similar to European football than the NBA in many areas too. Frankly, this is the case for how European team sports are structured in general, but I am specifically mentioning football because both more people are familiar with it and also because a higher number of European basketball clubs are under the same roof of the same sports club with their football counterparts, than with volleyball, handball, rugby or water polo.
Thus from a simpler perspective, European basketball stands somewhere in between, or at least standing from a similar distance to the two stranglers of its economy. This already implies that it has its own idiosyncratic product and gameplay. I’ve always enjoyed that brand of basketball, but it wasn’t until a decade into my own consumption of it that I noticed its existence is actually quite fragile. This ascription of fragility depends on a few things. Firstly, this idiosyncratic product of basketball is really only applicable to high level European basketball, not all of it. And this isn’t even taking into consideration European basketball leagues from regions where basketball is unpopular. Simply leaving such leagues out of the equation, and only considering the regions where basketball has some popularity, where competitive basketball clubs in continental competitions exist, this unique identity of basketball is still reserved for the minority of the teams. Therefore EuroLeague teams are most of these teams who play within the framework of this unique brand of high level FIBA basketball, even though it is not a brand of basketball only the EuroLeague teams possess or execute. This unfortunate limit on quantity of a certain type of quality is what makes European basketball’s position fragile.
In my estimation, what makes the product appealing to people is the brand of the game high level FIBA basketball offers. At the very least it breaks the first barrier to engagement. We may move onto consume, say, mid-level European basketball from that point onwards, however that engagement would largely vanish without the presence of high-level club basketball that is always out there somewhere, even when you’re not watching.
NBA is a strangler of club basketball at this juncture because it is a natural and a direct competitor on the supply of the labour force. I don’t agree that NBA is a competitor on demand/attention, there is at least a give and take relation in that regard. But they are European club basketball’s only worthwhile competitor on the supply of the labour force. A more radical take though, could be saying that actually until 2015 it was no such strangler. With the new national broadcasting contracts they agreed upon in 2015, and the subsequent massive increase in NBA franchises’ wage bills, things have changed. The financial gap has reached a degree then that not just players who get offered lucrative NBA contracts made the move, but players who wanted to just stop by for a season or two, collect the check and experience what that kind of basketball environment is like, abruptly made the NBA move too. It reached a degree that players who were yet to even prove themselves as high level EuroLeague players were getting offered better NBA wages left and right. However, because of the limited room for labour force in sport, and NBA’s very different league structure that leans more on development and less on the immediacy of competition, high level European basketball has not seen its unique product crumble just yet, with its own labour force in tact. In fact, I believe the product is as uniquely great as it has ever been.
The problem then, is not an ongoing crisis of a basketball crumbling, but the inevitably of that crisis coming if European club basketball economy continues to lag. After all, if NBA started to take absolute and sole control on the supply of the labour force in 2015, that had as much to do, if not more, with complete stagnation of club basketball economy over the 21st century.
One of such reports immediately exposed EL’s financial regression in 16 years when virtually every other sporting product had been vastly increasing revenues in that time span.
EB got a 35m USD commitment from Telefonica in 2000. EL revenue was €28m for the 2015-16 season.
— Uğur Yılmaz (@UYilmazz_) May 25, 2020
Naturally, if this dynamic of growth and non-growth of the two basketball economies continue to be the case over the long run, at some point the limited room for labour force in sport is not going to stop the NBA from completely destroying high level club basketball in Europe. This isn’t to exaggerate, that brand of basketball in club competitions is literally going to vanish if NBA’s economy reaches a point where they are comfortable to subsidise a feeder/international competition with serious money.
In person, I have received counter-arguments on this so called battle over the supply of the labour force. That argument is that it doesn’t matter how much NBA dominates the supply of the labour force, there will always be players available and European clubs will always get to complete their squads. That doesn’t sound too exciting, but the argument follows that the sporting culture and basketball consumption are so deeply and structurally apart in the US and Europe that European basketball will continue to sustain their audience even in such a scenario. Indeed, the basis of that counter-argument is completely valid. On the one hand you have a basketball league where the central league identity is its structural pillar, and on the other hand you have a basketball environment wherein the identities and independent power of individual clubs are its structural pillars. The latter situation at least, is not specific to the sport of basketball either, and is the case for all European team sports. Leaning more on the consumption side of the difference then, you have one basketball product wherein the most impactful single driver of success is your best player and you have another basketball product wherein the most impactful single driver of success is your head coach.
However I have two objections to the view that club basketball wouldn’t quite be affected by wide exodus of its high level players. It would likely mean the low to mid-level brand of club basketball becomes the new on-court product. I am skeptical that audience is going to be retained in this scenario. Well, it is going to be retained to some degree but I imagine to be heavy losses. Basically the audience retained could only be limited to club support, with next to zero general basketball fandom remaining. Second, I do not ever wish to witness that brand, style, tradition, identity of high level collective basketball vanish. And so, even if the audience is going to be retained, it does not really matter, for me personally.
Moving on from the Transatlantic effect on club basketball economy, how does European football allow that Transatlantic effect to occur in the first place?
In the entire sports economy, the primary revenue source that makes an entire league or another long-lasting competition financially powerful on the whole, is their media rights revenue. Club basketball’s direct competitor over the supply of labour, enjoys the benefits of being in a television market where more than half of the households in its domestic market pay for television. This is not even close to be the case in any of the television markets in relevant countries to European club basketball. NBA enjoys another benefit. It too, is dominated by another sport in mass consumption, American football. However American football is largely broadcasted on free TV, so most of its media rights revenue indirectly comes from commercials rather than premium TV subscriptions. That leaves NBA, and some other popular sports entities in the US which are all dominated by American football in mass consumption, to enjoy being overpaid relative to their viewership. Because the excess money gathered from premium TV subscriptions is used to buy these secondarily popular sports rights.
They have to compete with the NBA because US is a market where NBA ad revenue is 1,2 billion USD but Disney & AT&T don’t pay say, 1 billion, for that ad revenue, they pay 2,7 billion. Because US is that kind of a consumer market for pay-TV industry where they can overpay.
— Uğur Yılmaz (@UYilmazz_) May 25, 2020
In the broadcast markets of European basketball, that level of household penetration of premium TV subscription does not exist. And, if that makes you think of free TV broadcasting, free TV broadcasting is good for exposure to the product, but is always a considerable (immediate) financial setback to what premium media channels offer. But even a bigger problem is that, European basketball does not get to enjoy the absence of the sport it is dominated by in terms of mass consumption, like NBA does. Because European football is behind broadcast subscription paywalls as well.
In Italy, through research conducted by Ipsos and StageUp, who have conducted these surveys since 2001, it was revealed that Lega Basket Serie A fans in Italy have reached 6.044.000 people during the 20-21 season, up 7,6% from the 18-19 season. Serie A Calcio in contrast had 24.602.000 fans during the 20-21 season, down 2,6% from their 18-19 season.
If we take a look at the 20-21 season, the difference in fans of the top flights of these two sports in Italy is a ratio of 4.07. If we take a look at the 18-19 season, Serie A Calcio increases the gap to four and a half times being more popular. Both leagues are behind the broadcasting paywall. From that broadcast subscription revenue in the sports media market, during the 20-21 season, Serie A Calcio received a domestic broadcasting revenue of 486 and a half times of Lega Basket Serie A’s. So if their ratio of popularity is four or five in favour of top flight football, their ratio in domestic broadcast revenue is almost 500.
The reason behind this market imbalance is that broadcast subscription services do not pay from their subscription revenue based on the viewership each sports entity has. Instead they spare almost the entire subscription revenue they sit on, for football. The motive being the idea that subscription revenue is gathered when people change premium TV operators and football is the only sport that drives that significant change in subscriptions.
As a result, irrespective of how lazy or misplaced executives of basketball leagues and competitions might be, European basketball needs to break this market imbalance to drive up its broadcast revenues.
During the inaugural season of EuroLeague’s league format, 16-17, its cumulative television views was 46,4 million. This refers to views of live match broadcasts. And, crucially, it is the global count except for the omission of Greece, Turkey and China, in other words, three significant viewership markets of EuroLeague. In the following 17-18 EuroLeague season, that number was 50,6 million views. Again, omitting views from Greece, Turkey and China.
It is important to understand how these figures are counted. Nielsen, the American media company that has done the counting, takes the average viewership over the entire duration of a EuroLeague match, across all television markets except for Greece, Turkey and China and adds them up. So, the average views per match, excluding these three countries was 179.150 during the 16-17 season. The following season it was 194.615. I keep saying views, because this doesn’t necessarily count how many people have watched EuroLeague in these seasons. If you watched 45 EuroLeague matches during one of these seasons on television and if you are not in Greeece, Turkey or China, then you were most likely counted 45 times towards the 46,4 million or the 50,6 million figure. However, the measurement also only looks at average live viewership throughout the entire course of a match. Therefore it does not count how many people actually have seen that match either. Say, for a match that averaged 250k viewers through the entire telecast, north of 300k people might have seen that match on TV, due to viewers who some of it, only tuning for the final several minutes, etc. But the measurement only takes the average figure of 250k.
We are going to take a look at NBA’s cumulative television viewership numbers below, and they are also counted by Nielsen and the methodology of counting is the same. So that’s why I found it necessary to really explain the methodology in their counting. And ultimately it’s the same, so these are directly comparable numbers. One caveat is that we are going to compare the broadcast television views of NBA from United States only, whereas EuroLeague’s figures were international. In practical terms however, vast majority of NBA’s broadcast revenue comes from United States. About 3.7 billion US$ of NBA’s yearly revenue comes from the sum of television contracts in the United States. Chinese broadcasters contribute to NBA’s broadcast revenue with a few hundred million US$ as well, but NBA’s broadcast revenue from all the other markets is utterly insignificant. If the rest of their broadcast contracts were to suddenly vanish out of thin air, it wouldn’t even make a dent on the salary cap. On the flip side, EuroLeague is a popular sports entity in select markets, so its view count being global does not really matter especially considering three of its most significant markets are not even counted.
My estimation through calculating each of the 29 franchises’ (excluding Toronto whose local broadcasts are actually aired on Canadian national television) local television ratings for the 20-21 season resulted in a cumulative viewership of 140.741.888. Views on local broadcasts are not disclosed, only the ratings i.e. the households watching, that’s why an estimation is required. And this estimation was a result of a study I made a while back, which wasn’t particularly rigorous. I’d like to update the figure with a more rigorous estimation approach later on, which is going to take more time, however I’m quite sure the actual figure is within the 135-155 million range.
For nationally televised NBA telecasts however, we don’t need to estimate the views via ratings. Because these numbers are published. 167 national regular season telecasts of 20-21 had 1,34 million average viewership, which results in 223.780.000 cumulative views.
And 73 national telecasts in 2021 NBA play-offs had 3,7 million average viewership, which results in 270.100.000 cumulative views. That doesn’t include the finals which adds a further 69.190.000 cumulative views from free television broadcasts.
So for the 20-21 NBA season, we have a grand total of 703.811.888 views from television broadcasts of NBA in United States. The per match figure amounts to 664.600. But the cumulative figure matters more for the broadcast revenue and NBA’s ratio of cumulative views in the 20-21 season over EuroLeague’s 16-17 season is nearly 15.2 and over EuroLeague’s 17-18 season it is 13.9. Considering NBA has received about 3.7 billion US$ for this cumulative figure, holding that same ratio to EuroLeague would grant continental basketball’s top flight almost 244 million US$ for the 16-17 season and 266 million US$ for the 17-18 season. In reality, EuroLeague’s broadcast revenue was around €30 million in those seasons, even if nowadays at north of €40 million.
The Internal Threat to Club Basketball
External threats to European club basketball, although already well-known, were hopefully clarified in terms of how exactly and why they are threats. However the fragile ground that club basketball stands on, is not only threatened by external conditions. Perhaps the external threats target that brand of high level club basketball more specifically, but there is a potential internal threat that might target the entirety of club basketball.
If you noticed, when we put the undermonetisation of Lega Basket Serie A’s and EuroLeague’s broadcast revenues into numbers and ratios, the former’s undermonetisation is even more gross. Well, because, ever since EL’s league format was put into practice, its broadcast revenues have increased. But I also think it’s because the product simply carves out better engagement and more consumption out of its viewership base. That product is not something Lega Basket Serie A can offer, because they don’t have that high quality brand of collective basketball from top to the bottom of the league table like EuroLeague has. I reckon actually the lower basketball quality a team has, closer to NBA style of basketball they play in Europe, except with FIBA ruleset and at a slower pace. This isn’t to say NBA basketball is lower quality, I figure it just occurs as a result of similar squad mechanics stemming from different reasons. Nevertheless, I think the engagement & consumption from the side of general basketball fandom especially, is quite low when it comes to teams who do not carry the features of high level European basketball.
This reveals another potential threat then. If EuroLeague’s revenue is going to keep going up and up, and if domestic leagues are going to have stagnant revenues, regardless of how any external condition affects Euroball, that in and of itself is bound to destroy the club basketball structure. There are already multiple EuroLeague shareholder clubs whose managements want to break away from domestic leagues completely. It makes immediate financial sense for them, especially if they don’t see the potential of economic growth from their domestic leagues. EL clubs properly closing the league and being absent from their domestic competitions would certainly crush the club basketball structure as we know it. I am aware there are some amongst people who are only interested in EuroLeague, that want to see this happen. However it is obvious this would utterly ruin all the other significant, historically important and communally relevant basketball clubs and therefore as a basketball fan it is not something I can ever support.
To sum up, European basketball economy is lagging on a fragile ground, being succumbed by external conditions and having even more dangerous internal threats looming. The only way to resolve these issues is to cultivate the entire ecosystem. There are significant roadblocks on that path also, exactly none of this is even remotely straightforward. But as this piece already reached 6k words, the necessary framework of action to solve these externally present and immanently imminent issues is better off to be examined in another piece.