The Toronto Raptors are worth more than they’ve ever been. But their historic run to the NBA Finals has played less of a role in that than you might think.
A lucrative U.S. national TV deal for the NBA combined with five division titles in six seasons has propelled the Raptors past the Toronto Maple Leafs and Blue Jays in franchise value, making the team the most valuable sports franchise in the country, experts say. The Raptors are now worth about $1.8 billion (all figures U.S.), but could sell for well over $2 billion, according to some estimates. The Leafs, meanwhile, have a value pegged at $1.45 billion and the Blue Jays at $1.5 billion.
Making the Finals helps, but the team will have to keep it up to keep that valuation growing.
“Does it pay to win in the NBA? The best straight answer is not so much for the short run one season wonder — but definitely yes in spades for a consistent long run winner,” said John Vrooman, economics professor at Vanderbilt University and one of the world’s leading experts on the economics of professional sports.
“Winning doesn’t seem to matter as much as market size for NHL valuation, but consistent winning over a cumulative five- to 10-year span is relatively important for NBA club values,” Vrooman added in an email interview.
Vrooman estimates the Raptors now have a franchise value of $1.8 billion, up from a $1.7 billion estimate calculated by Forbes magazine before the Raptors made the NBA Finals. (Forbes also valued the Leafs at $1.45 billion.)
In the NBA, roughly 50 per cent of an average team’s revenue comes from leaguewide deals, such as a nine-year TV deal signed by the league in 2014, Vrooman said. In the NHL, just 20 per cent of the average team’s revenue comes from leaguewide contracts. Local TV contracts and other revenue, including arena sponsorship, merchandise and ticket sales account for 80 per cent of the average NHL team’s revenue and 50 per cent of an NBA team’s revenue.
David Carter, founder of the Sports Business Institute at the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business, said if the Raptors keep it up in future seasons, everything from local TV contracts to in-arena advertising deals and merchandise sales could be worth more. And those, in turn, help drive the franchise value.
“You have to look at the short term, the medium term and the long-term. A big run in the playoffs isn’t really going to do much to boost the franchise value in the short term. But if it’s part of a longer run of success, it can help,” said Carter. “The key is to demonstrate your sustained ability to be successful. There is a huge opportunity going forward in the long run.”
Not that the extra revenue brought in by this year’s historic run to the NBA Finals — the first time in franchise history the Raptors have made it this far — is anything to sneeze at, Carter said.
“It’s definitely in the millions. I’m not trying to minimize it,” Carter said.
In 2014, when the Raptors began their string of division titles, they were worth a relatively paltry $520 million, according to Forbes. The Leafs, at that point, were worth $1.3 billion. That year was also the first season of a lucrative new leaguewide U.S. TV deal for the NBA, which more than doubled league TV revenues to $2.6 billion per year, from the previous $966 million. That national revenue is split between the league’s 30 teams.