The NBA announced Monday that it had agreed to a new television contract with ESPN and TNT, and the deal is almost unfathomable: nine years, a reported $2.6 billion of revenue for the league annually. The value of an NBA franchise has skyrocketed overnight, putting to rest all those questions over the summer about why someone like, say, former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer would pay $2 billion to buy the Los Angeles Clippers — even if Donald Sterling stained the franchise with years of indefensible business practices and the recent revelation of racist remarks. This is why. Suddenly, $2 billion is a bargain, even for a team with so sad-sack a history as the Clips.
That brings us to the 76ers and their ownership group, headed by Josh Harris, who bought the team in 2011 for a mere $280 million. A managing partner with Apollo Global Management, a private-equity firm, Harris understands the patience and forethought required to make money and grow value over the long term, and the league's TV deal affords the Sixers an opportunity and the financial freedom to make a gesture that would earn them some good will among devoted and casual fans.
They should lower their ticket prices. Now.
Remember: Harris has given his blessing to general manager Sam Hinkie to rebuild the Sixers' roster over a period of years, with no apparent expiration date.
There have been no quick fixes so far, and there will be none. So Hinkie has drafted Michael Carter-Williams, Nerlens Noel, Joel Embiid, and Dario Saric, and the Sixers have asked their fans to wait and wait and wait while those young and promising players develop (once they convalesce from their serious injuries or ride out their overseas contracts, of course).
That's a potentially great plan for constructing a championship-caliber team, but not necessarily for entertaining anyone until then. Harris ought to be willing, then, to make a (relative) sacrifice or two to placate a fan base that will have to suffer through some rough times. If nothing else, Sixers fans have had plenty of practice in suffering.
Here's the team's ticket pricing and seating chart for the 2014-15 season.
A representative from the Sixers' ticket office said Tuesday that, in part because of the NBA's dynamic-pricing system (in which the quality of the opponent influences the price of a single-game ticket), the average cost to see a Sixers home game will rise slightly this season.
The franchise has announced that it will put the name of anyone who purchases a single-game ticket Wednesday, the first day the tickets go on sale, on billboards around the Delaware Valley—alongside the names of the Sixers' coaches and players. It's a nice idea, even if it does present a potential problem: One of the ticket buyers might be more recognizable than any of the players.
Still, a grander and more meaningful course of action would be to lower ticket prices across the board. It would be an acknowledgement of the patience that the Sixers are asking of their supporters and of the reality that the product the franchise plans to put on the court this season will be subpar. It might even boost the team's attendance totals. Besides, with this TV deal, there's no reason for any NBA owner, even Harris, to be crying poor, to be complaining about declining revenues.
Surely, he's smart enough to see the long-term benefit.