With each passing year, the high cost of top sports talent is being met more and more out of TV rights fees, according to cable sports executives.
There are currently 20 Major League Baseball players earning $2 million or more a year, including the Dodgers' Eddie Murray and Orel Hershiser. The Lakers' Magic Johnson earns more than $3 million a year and, in one of the most highly publicized contract negotiations of the decade, Wayne Gretzky became a Los Angeles King last September for a cool $3 million a year.
"When (Kings owner) Bruce McNall went after Wayne Gretzky, the rights fees that we paid the Kings went up," said Prime Ticket's John Severino. So did the number of opportunities Prime Ticket has of cablecasting Kings games.
The bottom line: Prime Ticket contributed to the whopping $34 million that McNall paid the Edmonton Oilers and Gretzky in order to import the NHL star to Los Angeles for the next eight years but, in exchange, Prime Ticket has more games to air, more commercial advertising time to sell and a big-name sports star as a drawing card.