It is a fact: Mexico will be two years old without receiving the NBA and with this, it will reach an estimated loss of economic income of 570 million pesos, which was what it generated in its visits between 2018 and 2019, according to Forbes. The basketball stars had been present on Mexican soil since 2014 (except 2016) in 10 games played at the Arena Ciudad de México.
Raúl Zárraga, general manager of NBA Mexico, explains the The Economist that for now there is no contract for the league to return to the country and that the talks will resume for a potential return in the 2022-23 season or until 2023-24. If it is until 2023, the estimated loss would rise to 855 million pesos.
This season it is 100% certain that there is no game in Mexico, it is already a fact. Maybe for the 2022-23 season, but I repeat, there is nothing to announce yet, we just remain committed to the idea ”, clarifies Zárraga.
The year with the best dividends was 2017, since between January 12 and December 9 of that year four games were played in Mexico City, while in 2018 and 2019 there were two (per year).
Although Mexico City entered a green light this week, the manager is firm that this does not open the possibility of receiving the NBA this season: “Of course, going green definitely helps in every way, not so much for the possible game in Mexico, but for everything we have, like the NBA Week, which we had to do in digital format due to all the complicated conditions of the pandemic, also for visits to our store in Polanco, to our commercial partners and in general to the reactivation of the economy ”.
Since the beginning of July, the commissioner of the NBA, Adam Silver, declared to the world that there would be no global games in the 2021-22 season, discarding the travel options to Latin America, Europe and Asia, since in the last 30 years the league He played 33 official matches in these territories: 12 in Japan, 11 in Mexico, nine in the United Kingdom and one in France.
The NBA He has also visited 12 other countries since 1984 through preseason matches: Italy, the Bahamas, Puerto Rico, Germany, Spain, the Dominican Republic, China, Taiwan, the Philippines, Brazil, India and Canada. Only in China 25 games were played from 2004 to 2019, so the league warned a loss of 400 million dollars for ceasing to play in that country as a result of the pandemic.
What are the conditions that Mexico needs to host NBA games again?
“The same as the general industry, of course the viability of live events of that magnitude, with full arenas, that we can sell 100% of the box office, as well as the participation of commercial partners, but the variables are the same as always : the interest of the country and the partners. The market is ready, it is nothing more than to be aligned on health issues and with the possibility that the teams come, according to what the authorities in Mexico and the league say, ”Raúl Zárraga responds.
Sustainability in the income model
In 2019, Raúl Zárraga explained to this newspaper that the income of the NBA Mexico They were divided into the following points in order of importance: sale of broadcasting rights, profits from sales of official merchandise, from sponsorships, from licenses and, finally, from ticket offices. Two years later and despite the pandemic, the model has not changed that much.
“Our formula is very similar, the elements are the same as any entertainment industry: media distribution, sale of official merchandise, sponsorship rights and ticket sales. We continue to explore different ways to grow our operation in the country and in the Latin American region ”.
On that line, he emphasizes that Mexico is third in the world in terms of subscribers to the NBA League Pass, with people viewing or consuming products. “That is a large number because what we are looking for is to continue expanding our coverage and availability of digital content, that is one of the priorities to have greater consumption or a more complete offer of digital content.” He points out that last season more than 50 games were broadcast in Spanish with voices such as Álvaro Martín and Carlos ‘El coach’ Morales.
Mexico also finished the 2020-21 campaign as the third country with the highest engagement in the world (not counting the United States and China), with 175 million video views between Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
In terms of transmissions, Mexico is the sixth largest audience in the world in terms of hours consumed and also sixth in the field of international broadcasters, that is, “the most important television partners worldwide”, defines Zárraga. The Mexican audience on ESPN grew 20% compared to the number of hours seen in 2019-20 and 42% in terms of average viewer, while on TUDN it increased 6% in total hours broadcast.
“We have the advantage and disadvantage that a large part of our offer is through television, tickets and attendance at events do not determine our financial projection or performance as an organization in Mexico,” the manager told Forbes in September of this year regarding the sustainability of the business model.
As of this 2021, NBA Mexico adds two other lines to its project: Capitanes, which debuts on November 5 in the G-League as the only team outside the United States and Canada in the history of this championship, as well as the 2K League, an eSports competition in the that also for the first time there will be a team established in Mexico.
“We have been consistent with the strategy of a long time, today defining something new is complex given the situation we come from (pandemic), but we bring a lot of attention to the League Pass, in the variety of experiences for users. Of the new projects are Capitanes and the 2K League, simply with them we already have enough novelty, now to consolidate ourselves, to go on the right path and that entails the economic point of view ”.
The manager also highlighted the balance of what they have achieved since 2017 with the NBA Academy project, from which 14 players who currently study and play in universities in the United States have emerged, as well as keeping their business partners this season: AT&T, Uber Eats, Gatorade, ESPN and TUDN.