The cancellation of the first two weeks of the NBA season is something fans and ticket brokers saw coming, but it doesn’t lessen their disappointment or the economic impact of the league’s shutdown.
Owners have locked out the players since July 1, as the two sides continue to negotiate a new labor deal that will divide $4 billion in annual revenue. Commissioner David Stern announced Monday, October 10, what had become inevitable as the sides remained millions of dollars apart — that the season wouldn’t open on November 1 and games through November 14 are wiped out.
If the season is to be saved, it will be shorter than the normal 82 games; in 1998, an owners’ lockout reduced the season to 50 games. The two sides are scheduled to sit down with a federal mediator next week, but with heated rhetoric continuing from both sides, another 50-game season might be a best-case scenario.
Two more weeks without a labor deal will likely bring the cancellation of the entire first month of the season.
A lost month of games will reportedly cost the league an estimated $700 million to $800 million. Players will miss their first NBA paychecks on November 15, but some are landing deals with teams overseas or are already playing there. Meanwhile, a Bloomberg News report last month said a cancelled season would cost arena operators more than $1 billion in revenue.
“It just seems like they’re fighting over all this money, and yet the people who pay this money is us,” Orlando Magic fan Dennis Salvagio told the Orlando Sentinel. “A lot of people, I think, are looking at them and saying that both sides are acting like children and not paying attention to the economic climate.”
“The Knicks were a very exciting team this past season and I’m sure fans were anxious to attend this season’s games,” New York ticket broker Leor Zahavi, founder and CEO of Admit One, said in an email to TicketNews. The team is coming off its first playoff appearance since 2004. “It’s unfortunate that fans are going to have to keep waiting until the NBA owners and players can reach an agreement.”
Season-ticket holders will soon be getting refunds for cancelled games. While the league policy calls for teams to give season-ticket holders a refund, plus interest, for missed games, some teams are amending that.
The Wall Street Journal reported that the Knicks are offering season ticket holders a choice of receiving 2 percent interest on season-ticket account balances for as long as the lockout lasts — with the money being applied toward future ticket purchases — or cash refunds with 1 percent interest. The Houston Chronicle reported that the Rockets will apply the value of the cancelled games toward playoff tickets for this season or 2012-13 season tickets. The team also is offering a 5 percent credit toward future tickets, merchandise, concessions or suite rentals.
“I think it would be foolish for them to kill the season, and we’re coming off the best season in the history of the NBA [in playoff TV ratings and revenue] and I’m not so sure in this kind of economy that if there is a protracted lockout whether the league will recover.” players union chief Billy Hunter told the Associated Press on Monday. “It took us a while to recover from the ’98 lockout, and I think it will take us even longer to recover this time around.”
Washington D.C.-area ticket broker Danny Matta, founder of GreatSeats.com, told TicketNews last week that he had increased his college basketball inventory for the coming season in anticipation of cancelled NBA games, hoping that would pick up the slack.
Michael Lipman, owner of Tickets of America in Miami, which has offices right across from the Heat‘s home, AmericanAirlines Arena, told the Miami Herald he’s already cut his staff of 27 in half and would lose $2 million if the whole season is cancelled. Plus, the NFL’s Dolphins are 0-4.
“It’s a brutal time to be a ticket broker in South Florida,” Lipman said.