* NBA lockout proves costly for all but a few
* Arenas, TV broadcasters, municipalities under pressure
* Season ticket holders eligible for refunds, interest
By Paul Thomasch
NEW YORK, Oct 21 Number crunchers have come up
with an unexpected conclusion about the National Basketball
Association's decision to cut short its season: There may
actually be a few economic winners.
As NBA owners and players broke off talks this week,
chances increased that the league will soon be forced to cancel
more games, if not the entire season. Already, it has scrapped
the preseason and the first two weeks of the regular season,
frustrating fans from Los Angeles to Miami.
That's bad news for arena employees, TV networks and
restaurants and small businesses that rely on the games to
bring in customers.
But for those fans who spend a collective $170 million a
year to buy season tickets to NBA games, there's a silver
lining to the lockout -- albeit a thin one.
New York Knicks season ticketholders, for instance, can
receive a refund on any missed games, plus a 1 percent annual
interest payment for money in their account with the team. For
those willing to skip the refund -- and instead apply the money
to next season's tickets -- the Knicks have offered to pay 2
The Los Angeles Lakers offered to pay an even more
impressive interest rate of 5 percent.
While hardly the recipe for getting rich, those returns
become more attractive when stacked against year-to-date
declines in both the Dow Jones and Standard & Poor's 500.
Some experts contend that canceled games aren't all bad for
some of the NBA teams, either, particularly those that
frequently lose money during a season. While they may miss out
on ticket sales, they also don't have to dish out mega-salaries
to their players.
"The irony is that you have a fair number of teams that
will lose less money by not playing than they would have by
playing the games," said Marc Ganis, president of sports
consulting firm Sportscorp Ltd, pointing to teams such as the
Minnesota Timberwolves or the New Orleans Hornets.
Others that may benefit from the NBA's lockout include NCAA
basketball and the National Hockey League, which struggled to
win back fans after its own labor dispute.
THE BIG BUSINESS
"Depending on how long the lockout continues, the big
picture is that a number of parties will be meaningfully
effected," said Ganis.
At any given game, he points out, some 1,500 workers are
needed to serve food and drinks, clean, park cars and take
tickets. Those people won't be paid, and cities will not be
able to collect taxes on that income, or the beer and hot dogs
that otherwise would have been sold.
This week in Memphis, home to the NBA's Grizzlies, the city
council passed a resolution to explore a range of options,
including a lawsuit by the city, to recover money lost because
of the lockout.
And Fitch ratings has said it could cut bond ratings on the
Staples Center in Los Angeles and the Pepsi Center in Denver if
the season is canceled.
As for the TV broadcasters, Walt Disney Co's ESPN
and ABC along with Time Warner's TNT broadcast NBA
regular season and playoff games, and will have to find ways to
fill up holes left by the canceled games. They may also have to
rework advertising deals.
It will be tougher still on smaller regional sports
networks such as Comcast Corp's SportsNet Chicago or
News Corp's Fox Sports West, which have have fewer
options when it comes to plugging gaps.
"On the surface, people think it's just the players and
teams themselves that are hurt," said Tony Ponturo, a sports
consultant. "What really impacts people is the trickling down
effect -- the ushers, the security workers at arenas, staff at
the league office that are out of work."
What happens before Jan. 1 will determine whether the
season can be saved, he said. Once talks slide into 2012, it
becomes far more likely the season will be canceled.
If so, fans would almost certainly react with anger to both
sides of the financial dispute, particularly when they are
worried about their own jobs, homes and retirement accounts. It
then becomes a question of whether they would forgive.
"The sports fan has gotten worn out with the big business
of sports," said Ponturo.
Above all, experts said, that is the biggest fear of the
businesses that count on the NBA. Companies such as Adidas , which holds the license to provide NBA uniforms and
sell NBA apparel, can weather a short lockout, but would feel
the long-term financial pinch if fans simply lost patience with