Bryan Caplan  

Opera versus the NFL

The Selfish Reason to Have ... China-Bashing...

According to Russ Roberts:

Annual [opera] admissions are now estimated at 20 million, roughly the same attendance as NFL football games (22 million, including playoffs, in 2006–07).
I'm incredulous. How can a hobby enjoyed by me and a few octogenarians be competitive with football? Is there something relevant about football that I'm clueless about?

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COMMENTS (9 to date)
RSF writes:

If you compare the television audiences of opera and football, there isn't a comparison. Also, attendance of college football games is quite substantial.

Corinna writes:

Once school districts begin busing thousands (millions?) of children to NFL games for field trips, then maybe the comparison will be a little more genuine.

Brandon Berg writes:

The demand is the limiting factor in opera attendance, while the supply is the limiting factor in NFL attendance.

There are 32 NFL teams, and each team plays 20 games in the pre-season and regular season. Since there are two teams playing in each game, that means that there are about 320 games per season. If we assume each stadium holds 60,000 spectators, that means that yearly attendance can be 19,000,000 at most. This is the limiting factor in NFL attendance. Attendance would be higher if there were more games.

Hei Lun Chan writes:

31 of 32 teams sold out every regular season game in the NFL last year.

Craig Stuntz writes:

Opera is performed worldwide, especially if you consider related forms like Italian opera, Chinese opera, etc. The NFL is only in the U.S., and NFL attendance is less than overall "American football" attendance.

DM writes:

[Comment deleted for supplying false email address.--Econlib Ed.]

Marc writes:

Brandon Berg gets it right when he says supply of tickets to football games is a limiting factor. The other is that ticket prices to football games are kept artificially low.

As Hei Lun Chan states, 31 of the 32 teams sold out every single game last year. Scalpers buy a lot of those tickets, then turn them around and sell them for up to 5 times the face value. For a popular team in a big market with a winning season (think NE Patriots), the actual market clearing price for regular seats could approach $1000 each. The teams keep face value arificially low in order to maintain the long term reputation of the league as a "family venue" and reduce the charges that "a working family can't afford to take their kids to a game". They are willing to take a short-term hit to gate revenue to maintain their long-term TV revenue.

And TV is where they make most of their money.

Jeff G writes:

Nothing gets my goat more than slective accounting when comparing items with each other -attendance to evbents is not a proper equivalization metric, dollars generated by each form of entertainment would be more so. Afterall, that is all anyone cares about in any of these pursuits regardless, they are businesses.

I believe many of you stated many of the thoughts I have above - in a sport such as baseball, which has a schedule of about 2,592 games in its regular season there are approximately 78MM attendees. None of that of course as per football includes folks listening or watching it on television.

I think that dollars paid combining merchandise, concessions, tickets, television, radio, etc. is a more proper metric for determining relevance of professional entertainment, than is the selective cherry picking of comparative statistics.

Compare the relevance and magnitude of the golf industry and Tiger Woods to opera for example, an entertainment form that targets similar demographic to opera in many respects. Conmparing physical attendance to golf events alone to Opera would be spurious to say the least!

The points above about sports being better represented on an "amateur" level in collegiate and schooling cirles is especially relevant as well.

Ak Mike writes:

I think most of the commenters are missing the point. Given the media saturation of NFL football and the relative absence of opera from the media, it is amazing that nearly as many attend the latter as the former. (Regarding capacity: it's striking that the NFL stadiums are all pretty small, compared to big college stadiums and the previous generation. Now why would that be?) I don't think the point of the post was that opera is a bigger business than NFL football.

I don't know why dollars spent on a form of recreation is a "proper equivalization metric" as Jeff would have it. Remember that millions of opera CDs and DVDs are sold, many of them watched and listened to again and again. Nobody buys a football DVD. Opera is also on the radio year round. I spent $30 few years ago on the Von Karajan DVD of Don Giovanni and have watched it at least ten times. Does that mean that the $30 I spent for (so far) 30 hours of entertainment is "equivalized" to one Chicago Bears sweatshirt or a top-tier goalpost ticket for a preseason game?

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