Friday, August 05, 2011

Forbes: lucrative TV deal could lead Islanders to Brooklyn, despite smaller arena than desired (updated)

Tom Van Riper writes in Forbes that, despite the fact that the Barclays Center is designed for basketball, meaning bad sightlines for hockey and a capacity of some 14,000 seats, it's more than likely the arena would become home to the Islanders when the Nassau Coliseum lease expires in three years.

He writes:
Financing a new arena privately is very doable, but expensive. Moving to another market? Not a great option. You’re not going to find the demographics in Kansas City, Hartford, Quebec or anywhere else that you have on Long Island. And the biggest factor of all: television. Back in 1999, as the local cable sports landscape was beginning its metamorphosis into team owned stations like the Yankees’ YES Network, the Islanders inked an extension with Cablevision all the way through the 2030-31 season, for rights fees that escalate from roughly $14 million a year initially to a reported $36 million by the last year of the deal. The contract is the Islanders’ most valuable asset, one they’re unlikely to duplicate in another market.
The Islanders would be a tenant, so few if any revenue from suite sales and naming rights, Van Riper notes, but the cost would be fixed, the arena's accessible, and then there's "NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman’s preference for market stability."

It didn't convince deMause, but...

In his Field of Schemes blog, Neil deMause linked to Van Riper's piece but was skeptical, writing:
So: Brooklyn Islanders, possible? Yes. Likely? Unless both Chales Wang and the NHL decide that the Brooklyn market is so lucrative that it's worth playing in a substandard arena, don't hold your breath.
But deMause didn't immediately directly address the issue cable TV rights, so let's consider it an open issue. He had previously written:
Add in that being even on the outskirts of the NY media market is worth a bunch in cable and sponsorship dollars - or would be if anyone started paying attention to the Islanders again - and it's hard to see where they'd move to that would be an improvement on staying put and throwing another Nassau arena plan at the wall to see if this one sticks.
It apparently already is worth a bundle. Note that Newsday, the Long Island newspaper owned by Cablevision, endorsed the plan for a new Nassau Coliseum.

Responding to Forbes

I asked deMause for his take on Van Riper's analysis, and he responded
:
The cable money helps, no doubt. But it still means moving from one suboptimal arena in Nassau (old, low revenue streams) to another suboptimal one in Brooklyn (bad hockey sightlines, subtenant). It'd probably be better than moving to Kansas City, but that's not saying much.

I'll be surprised if Wang, his earlier threats notwithstanding, doesn't give it one more try to get something done with Long Island, especially seeing as he's stuck there for four more years anyway. At that point he can always sell out to a new owner who can move them if he wants (though he's unlikely to get top dollar then).
In the Village Voice, deMause wrote:
If [owner Charles Wang] holds on to the Isles, though, the best option may well be going back to the well an umpteenth time for a Nassau County deal
An ad from the Islanders

Below, an advertisement urging voters to support the proposal--an ad never needed in Brooklyn, where the voters never had a say in the Atlantic Yards project.

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