NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The NFL's preseason is upon us and for-real football kicks off in a few weeks. Are you ready to spend some money?
Like an all-pro cornerback waiting for his team to pay him and end a salary holdout, the NFL knows it's only a matter of time until fan spending hits midseason form. This year, however, a slight wane in financial uncertainly has the league and its teams ready to reverse pulled-back prices and launch an all-out blitz on the big spenders in the best seats.
With ticket prices on the rise, beer prices still bloated and a certain video game franchise still expecting fans to pay a bit more for the latest installment nearly 22 years into its lifespan, football's economic indicator is on the upswing. Will fans buy in? TheStreet looked at seven points that the NFL and its ancillary businesses hope will add up to a touchdown this season, and while some seem as certain as a completion amid blown coverage, there are others that are a bit of a Hail Mary:
Average price: $600
For about $10 extra, fans can watch games on mobile devices including Apple's (AAPL) (Stock Quote: AAPL) iPad and iPhone, Google (Stock Quote: GOOG) (GOOG) Android gadgets, Research in Motion (RIMM) (Stock Quote: RIMM) BlackBerry products, Palm's Pre and Pixi and Microsoft (MSFT) (Stock Quote: MSFT) Windows Mobile phones. Not a DirecTV subscriber? The company is offering its mobile service a la carte -- for $350 to non-DirecTV customers. Think that's steep? Too bad. With the exception of the Red Zone channel on certain cable systems, Sunday Ticket is the only offering of its kind. Good luck with the local "action."
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As anyone who's ever drafted a rookie or defense too early knows, there's very little "free" about a fantasy league. Sure, FoxSports isn't charging you or other members of your Crosby Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce & Young fantasy league for participating, but dues among participants range from as little as $10 for fun leagues to upward of $100 to $500 for seasoned competitors. That's not including the add-ons each site includes to help cellar dwellers pretend they have a chance of winning their money back. Yahoo Offers a $9.99 "scouting report" of predraft favorites and in-season stats. It also offers league commissioners a $14.99 "Trade Review" feature in which it will act as an arbiter when two of your buddies collude to trade Peyton Manning and Atlanta's stud running back Michael Turner for Arizona kicker Neil Rackers and a tight end to be named later.
ESPN, meanwhile, keeps much of its premium information locked up with its Insider content, which can cost $3.33 a month with a year's subscription or $2.50 a month on a two-year plan. CBSSports, though, has the audacity to offer $40 to $500 "premium leagues" instant statistical information, a chance to win $3,500 in prizes and a $160 commissioner league with similar perks, but more mobile apps.
If gambling troubles you as a football-related industry, you're spending your Sundays in the wrong building. As the Los Angeles Times discovered last year, football wagering makes up 28% of the $125 million business at the Las Vegas sports books, with college football accounting for 19%. Those bets come at a cost, however. The sports books charge $10 on a $100 bet, while online sports gambling sites -- based offshore and only legal if bettors don't get caught -- charge only $5 for the same wager.
That said, it means putting down $50 to $60 on a game just to discover that EA still can't do a damned thing with motion control, has no interest in vastly improving anything about game play and has no desire to lessen the price of a product that has NFL exclusivity for another two years. Gamers used to circumventing this problem through the used-game market got a rude awakening from EA earlier this year, when the company began charging used-game buyers a $10 fee to play online.
Average price: Roughly $15
In the next quarter, right in the thick of football season, that revenue shot up to $23.6 million and 1.4% growth in domestic retail sales. Meanwhile, Papa John's (PZZA) (Stock Quote: PZZA)-- which was just awarded a three-year exclusivity deal as official pizza sponsor of the NFL and Super Bowl -- saw revenue increase from $11.7 million in the third quarter of last year to $13.7 million during football season. Yum Brands doesn't break out Pizza Hut earnings, instead lumping them in with A&W, Taco Bell and KFC earnings like the latter's Famous Bowls, but the jump from $879 million spent at U.S. franchises in the third quarter to the more than $1 billion spent midfootball season seemed to skip Pizza Hut. It saw competitors take a slice of its business as same-store sales declined 13% and 12% respectively.
Average price: $6.80 a cup at an NFL game; less than that for a six pack anywhere else
Given the near $7 figure the Fan Cost Index cites as the average cost of beer at an NFL venue (a cost that's held since 2008), the proliferation of beer ads during NFL events and the $1 billion Anheuser-Busch InBev (BUD) (Stock Quote: BUD) reportedly just paid to take over for MillerCoors as the NFL's official beer sponsor in 2007, one would assume the beer business is bubbling over during football season. Nope.
(BUD) One of the reasons MillerCoors' parent company, MolsonCoors (Stock Quote: TAP) (TAP) , may have had difficulty getting a new deal with the NFL is because the sponsorship didn't do much for stale sales. U.S. beer sales dropped 2.2% last year and 2.7% for the first half of the year, according to Beer Marketer's Insights. Last year, MillerCoors shipments were down by more than 1 million barrels as smaller companies such as Yuengling and Boston Beer (Stock Quote: (SAM) SAM), the makers of Samuel Adams, experienced moderate growth. At no time did this hurt more than in the fourth quarter, when MillerCoors' net income dropped from more than $244 million the quarter before to $106 million right in the middle of football season.
(BUD) (TAP) (SAM) So why the downturn for the official beer of the NFL? As we said, $6.80 for a beer is expensive and, while football season seems like a nice time to put a few away during a pregame, the warmer vacation season is really a better time to take down a cheap, light beer. It should also be noted that MillerCoors' Cleveland Browns-style fourth-quarter collapse was a 21% dropoff from the year before, perhaps indicating fans' growing indifference to color-changing cans, attractive women and rooms full of brohemian doofuses trying to sell them some suds.
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