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The NFL makes so much money it almost doesn't need you to buy a ticket

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The NFL makes so much money it almost doesn't need you to buy a ticket
The money from media pays all the costs of the team before the season even starts.
Economic's professor Roger Noll

The National Football League raked in over $13 billion last season, according to SI.com.  

So how much of that comes from ticket sales?  

Roger Noll, professor of economics emeritus at Stanford University,  says less than you think.

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All of the league's operation costs are covered even before the season starts. 

"What goes on inside the stadium in terms of ticket prices is basically just profit for the owners," he says.

Of the 13 billion brought in last year, roughly 70-75 percent came from media deals. 

The other 25 percent is made up in ticket sales, concessions, sponsorships, merchandising and more. About $2 billion alone came from gate receipts from tickets that cost $86 each. 

This means that the league is able to level a massive profit margin on fans who come to see the game and to that cold beer they drink at the game. 

In hockey, it's more like 25%-30% [that comes from media and licensing].
Roger Noll, Stanford University Professor

But other major sports leagues don't have it so good like the National Hockey League, which unlike the NFL, relies on fans paying for tickets and money spent at games. 

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Noll says, "hockey derives almost all of its revenue from what goes on inside of the arena. In that case, the viability of the team depends on drawing well and having people buying tickets."


Noll believes that game location and number of games plays a big part in revenue generation. 

"If you array the sports, the one in which the local market is most important is the NHL. Then the least important is the NFL, and baseball and basketball are somewhere in the middle."

Hockey is popular only in certain parts of the country, unlike the NFL which has a national appeal. Also, there are 82 regular season games in the NHL, which means a lot more seats to fill when compared to the NFL's 16.

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When it comes to media deals, most NHL games must be sold to smaller national or local outlets because it is not feasible to air all 82 games of all 30 teams on a national scale. 

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Noll also referred to significant differences in the way  pro leagues are set up financially as another factor. He explains the leagues don't regulate ticket prices, but influence them through revenue sharing. 

"The extent of revenue sharing is low in hockey and basketball. It's higher, about 30 percent...in baseball, and then it's highest in the NFL, about 40 percent."

A struggling team in the NFL will still be profitable because it is aided more heavily by successful team through their profit sharing system. 

By comparison, a struggling team in the NHL isn't afforded the same luxury because the league's profit sharing system is not as big.

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No one will feel bad for the athletes and leagues that welcome our paychecks in exchange for an opportunity to watch them live and in-person. But while the NFL is counting its money, the NHL, NBA, and MLB are counting their blessings.

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