ESPN, NYC Marathon and The Race Fee Debate
So yesterday maybe you heard or maybe not but ESPN, WABC and New York Road Runners, the group that puts together the ING NYC Marathon, agreed on a five year television rights deal. ESPN2 will have the television rights on race day and will produce a show from 9am to 12:30pm while WABC will carry the race from 9am to 2pm. Further, it will be streamed online at WatchESPN.com and the WatchESPN app. Other shows leading up to race day are also included in this deal.
My first reaction is that this is fantastic news for the running community, the race was only locally televised by NBC and streamed online by NBC/Universal Sports. ESPN will do a fantastic job with promoting the sport of running and the details of race day, including the all important inside stories the we all love to hear about. For the first time since I can remember our sport of amateur distance running will be on the big stage for all to see.
This deal doesn’t surprise me, the NYC Marathon is the largest sporting event in the world. There certainly is an audience for this and advertisers will be ready to fork over big money to get their brands to the millions of television viewers that will watch. If I don’t run it, I certainly will be watching.
So that is all good news and seems like a win/win- I wonder how much money ESPN/WABC paid for these exclusive rights. I also wonder how NYRR President and CEO Mary Wittenberg will use the extra revenue to make the race better for everyone involved.
My fear is that the NYRR will use the money to pay for more professional athletes to show up for the race. Also, I am wondering if the purse will increase again attracting the top field, sort of an all-star game of runners. I say this is my fear because as NYRR spends more and more money on the elite/professional runners, the average runner (who the race was created for) is stuck paying the ever increasing race fees.
You would hope that in this economy NYRR would earmark some of the television rights revenue to help offset the race fee for the average Joe. Heck, it is the 40,000+ average Joe runners that have made this event so attractive for television- along with the allure of running in NYC. You would think that we would get some sort of consideration for our participation by capping fees for a period of 5 years and removing the ludicrous $11 processing fee just to enter the lottery- a lottery that you probably won’t even win.
It is great for the sport to have the marathon televised nationally, I love it! I just hope that the ever increasing race fees are evaluated by the major race organizers, especially the NYC Marathon who will have a windfall of television rights cash over the next 5 years.
As I have said in the past, running is free and is not a commodity.
What are your thoughts about this television rights deal with ESPN? What are your feelings about race fees and about increases each year? Would you not run a race due to their high fees? Does it make sense to cap fees for during the years television rights are being paid?