It's that time of year again. That time of year to tell you what's going to happen next year in the sports business.
1. The Olympics Opening Ceremonies Will Be The Most Amazing Spectacle In Sports History: Make sure you're either in front of your television or in Beijing on August 8, 2008 because China's coming out party will be unlike anything you've ever seen. Not often do you get to see a couple hundred million being spent before your eyes. If you have enough money, get inside the "Bird's Nest" for the spectacle. If not, don't miss this.
2. League Networks Will Make Small Gains:
Despite all the brouhaha, the NFL Network and the Big Ten Network will be in less than 50 million homes by year's end. The demand for the NFL Network will die down after the Patriots-Giants game and no one basketball or football game will cause enough of a stir to cause a cable carrier switch over the Big Ten Network.
3. The Chicago Cubs & Related Assets Will Sell For $980 Million:
When the Tribune Co. finally sells the Cubs in July 2008, the company will make nearly $1 billion from the sale. Besides the Cubs--2008 is the 100th anniversary since they last won the World Series--Wrigley Field and a 25 percent stake in Comcast SportsNet Chicago will also be included in this sale.
4. Nike Will Dump Michelle Wie:
Three years after turning pro, Michelle Wie will not have won a single LPGA tournament and certainly won't make a cut in a men's event. Nike , who signed her to a three-year deal with a two-year option, will ask Wie if she wants to take less money or walk.
5. Steve & Barry's Will Be Acquired:
One of the greatest private retailing stories of this decade, juggernaut Steve & Barry's, which started as a discount sports store and has morphed into something greater, will be entirely sold off. Private equity firm TA Associates, which already owns a minority stake, could be the ultimate buyer. The total buyout price will surpass $1.2 billion.
6. Charlie Weis Gets Biggest Buyout In Coaching History:
After the Notre Dame Fighting Irish go 6-6 in 2008, boosters help Notre Dame athletic director Kevin White make the decision to fire Weis. Weis will get paid more than $15 million to not coach the Irish.
7. Dale Earnhardt Jr. Sells More Gear In A Single Season Than Any Athlete In Sports History:
Dale Earnhardt Jr. will only win two races in 2008, but with a new team and new sponsors--Amp and National Guard--he will sell more merchandise than any athlete in any sport. Earnhardt will help Amp Energy Drink become the fourth most popular energy drink in the US, leapfrogging SoBe No Fear and Coke's Full Throttle in just one year.
8. It's Under Armour's "Make Or Break" Year:
Under Armour might be a $600 million company, but its future growth could depend on its ability to sell shoes. The company's second year in football cleats saw it holding share (about 20 percent) and I don't expect them to lose anything in baseball cleat sales in the spring (they have about a 15 percent share). Watch out for the cross trainers that come in May.
8a. All-You-Can-Eat Is All-The-Rage:
So many teams took up the "All-You-Can-Eat" plan in 2007. Well, any team that doesn't in 2008 is just dumb. It's the ultimate win-win. For a $30 minimum ticket price, fans can't possibly eat enough for the team not to earn a profit. But fans are calculating the cost to them, so they think it doesn't take much to eat $30 worth of food in retail value.
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