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Which pro sport generates the most revenue?

Many sports bring together millions of viewers from around the world, with cricket and football being the top two most watched. Do they generate the most revenue though?

Football may have 200+ countries taking part but it doesn’t bring in the most revenue. There may be millions of people in love with the game, but the audience is only interested in a few competitions. These are the World Cup, the UEFA Champions League and some of the major football leagues across the world. Competitions like the Europa League get scant viewing number, and, therefore, reduced sponsorship.

Cricket is largely ignored in many parts of the world. There are only 10 main countries and 4 active associate countries playing the game. The reason why it is second only to football in popularity is that the major players India, Pakistan and Bangladesh make up 26% of the world’s population. It is India’s number one sport.

The National Football Leagues and Major League Baseball franchises generate the most revenue in the world. Combined, the NFL, MLB and NBA generate more than $25B in revenue every year.

Teams in the NFL make an average $286 million annually, while those in the MLB make $237 million. In contrast, teams in the English Premier League, which is the highest value football league in the world, average $94 million per year. NBA teams also generate over $100m on average each year. With more TV revenue in sports, more sports and casino sites accepting PayPal, and increasing stadium capacities around the world, sports revenue is only set to increase.

Analysing the figures

Looking through revenue generated by the different sports around the world, it is obvious that sports played in developed countries like the US and UK generates more revenue. This may have more to do with better packaging, branding and accountability in these locations than just wealth. For example, over 200m people play Cricket, Ping Pong, Badminton and Basketball in China yet the participants do not see a fraction of revenues posted by the same sports in more developed countries. China has plenty fo affluence to generate sporting revenue. It is expected that as more people embrace the different sports in these regions, investors will be forced to take matters into their hands regarding sponsorship.

Another concern posed by the numbers is the current state of the NFL, MLB and NHL. Are they overvalued? Will the bubble burst soon?

The last NFL season finale, known as the Super Bowl, was aired to over 112m viewers. Advertisers had to pay as much as $4m for a 30sec slot. To put the numbers in context, the cricket semi-final between India and Pakistan in 2011 was beamed to over 800m viewers. Over a billion viewers saw the Beijing Olympics opening ceremony. None of these events generated as much revenue as the Super Bowl. Granted, marketers are usually focused on specific audiences, but with economic growth expected around some of the more populated regions of the world, a shift in sport revenue dominance may be coming soon.

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