Forbes released its annual list of NHL valuations Monday, ranking the most valuable franchises in hockey from 1-30 in addition to providing other good reads on the business side of the league.
The accuracy of the annual Forbes report is always under scrutiny, and rightly so. Some of the numbers are clear misses, and its near-impossible to identify a bad figure from the good ones. But few multi-multi-million dollar businesses are likely to release all of their financial goings-on -- especially those in industries where receiving capricious amounts of public funding under questionable or outright immoral circumstances is the status quo. So this is the best look we're going to get without performing a dissertation's worth of financial excavation.
And according to the latest list, the Penguins are worth a lot.
Pittsburgh ranks eighth out of 30 NHL teams in franchise valuation for 2013. The rankings are based on a number of factors, including ticket sales, local (RSN) television broadcast deals, arena value, player expenses and more.
Pittsburgh's valuation of $480 million comes in at nearly $70 million greater than the $413 million league average, and makes the Penguins the fourth-most valuable U.S. franchise despite the relatively small metropolitan fanbase from which it draws.
What contributed to the Penguins surge in value? A years-long sellout streak and sweetheart television deal have helped the Penguins increase their value in every year since the 2005 NHL lockout, but the windfall of the 2012-13 NHL lockout is chief among the factors that sent the Penguins' team value skyrocketing by 67 percent in the last year.
We know why the NHL locks its players out at the end of every collective bargaining agreement. It's great for business. The NHL saw league-wide revenues increase in every year after the 2005 lockout, and the Penguins saw their franchise valuation increase in kind.
The 2012 lockout was no different. Despite having lost the revenue of 1020 cancelled regular-season games, the NHL retained its national broadcast deal, its regional broadcast deals, all of its major sponsors and did so while siphoning off 1020 games worth of player salaries and collecting a significant cap-ceiling rollback that decreases top-level spending for 2013 and beyond.
That's a huge savings to owners. As such, team values jumped significantly.
So significant, in fact, that not one of the 30 NHL teams reportedly saw a decline in franchise value in the latest report. While franchise values tend to increase as a matter of course, there are always outliers. Not so, this year.
Pittsburgh saw it's estimated franchise value jump from $288 million in 2012 to $480 million now. That 67 percent increase is based in part on lower payrolls brought about by the lockout and the relative stability provided by the new 8-year CBA. On average, NHL teams saw their value increase by 46 percent since last year's report.
Pittsburgh's local successes with attendance and television ratings played into the valuation, as they always do. But from 2005-2012, a period of success that has seen seven-consecutive playoff appearances and the bulk of a 299-game home sellout streak, the team's value never increased by more than $40 million in a given year-to-year period.
After the 2013 lockout, the Penguins reportedly gained $192 million in franchise value.
The jump is so staggering that it almost seems like a mistake. If it is, it's not alone. Eight NHL teams reportedly saw value increases of 60 percent or more. The Vancouver Canucks more than doubled their franchise value a year after being swept out of the first round of the playoffs and firing their head coach.
If that's what a lockout does for your business, make plans to find a new favorite sport for fall 2019.
- Sidney Crosby was also named the NHL's highest-earning player in a related report. Sid's latest contract, a front-loaded, 12-year, $104 million deal signed before the expiration of the last CBA, gives him a modest $8.7 AAV that is actually paying out $12 million in salary this season. Combine that with some $4.5 million in endorsements and other off-ice earning this season, and Sid's $16.5 million payday for 2013 is the richest in the league. Imagine what that number could be if Sid had ever made a foray into free agency.
- Forbes also listed the Penguins as having the 10th-friendliest RSN deal in hockey. Their current deal with Root Sports, which was signed for a team-record 18 seasons, is reportedly worth $18 million per year. This one should be taken with a grain of salt. Neither the Penguins nor Root Sports has ever officially disclosed the terms of the deal. However, with the Penguins routinely pulling down the best local numbers in the NHL, in addition to outdrawing every NHL, NBA and MLB franchise in local ratings last season, both parties seem to making the best of whatever the deal is actually worth.
- Last year's lockout saw the Penguins spend some $16 million less on player salaries in 2013 than in the year prior. The team's operating income reportedly jumped some $12 million in that year-to-year span. Their revenues also dipped, by some $13 million. If all those numbers are accurate, they certainly help explain the Penguins' stance as one of the first teams to work towards ending the lockout.