NHL's Not More Popular Than the NBA
And it's not. The NBA is certainly the vastly more lucrative sport -- a total league valuation of $11 billion versus $6 billion for hockey, according to Forbes. The NHL certainly doesn't mint as much money as the NBA, with hockey's 2007 revenues at $2.4 billion compared to the NBA's $3.6 billion. And it's not all TV revenues, as Forbes' numbers indicate total gate receipts at $1.2 billion for the NBA versus $1.0 billion for the NHL.
As much as folks rag on the NBA's sagging interest, the league did fill up 92% of its seats last season. The poll can (at least partly) be explained by the strength of preferences: Hockey might have more die-hard fans in the United States (that 5% the poll captures) and fewer 'casual' fans (which explains the gulf in revenues from gates, TV and merchandise and seemingly every other measure). The NBA's die-hard 4% is augmented by, you would assume based on that 92% attendance rate, a wealth of casual fans. In this scope, then, the NBA seems easily more popular. Advertisers, networks, cable providers... they all think so, at least. It might not always stay that way -- a good TV deal would be a boon for the immediate bottom line and growth prospects for hockey, obviously -- but the financial gulf seems too extreme to assume the NHL will ever catch up.