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Ten Years Later: Orioles, Ravens Ticket Prices Then And Now

April 15, 2016
Before you get mad at Orioles owner Peter Angelos because the cost of your Orioles tickets has outpaced the inflation rate in the 10 years that PressBox has been around, here's one factoid you should know:

The price of a movie ticket has risen as much as an O's ticket.

According to the website Box Office Mojo, you spent an average of $6.55 in 2006 for a ticket to take a date to see "The Devil Wears Prada," "Superman Returns" or "Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby." Or to take your kids to see "Cars" or "Night at the Museum."

In 2016, the average movie ticket price is projected to be $8.70, according to Box Office Mojo. That's an increase of 32.8 percent.

Orioles tickets averaged $22.53 in 2006 and will average $29.95 this season, according to figures provided by the team. That's an increase of 32.9 percent.

You could get mad at Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti, though.

Ravens tickets averaged $62.01 in 2006 and will average $100.19 (for the third straight year) in 2016, according to the statistics-based website Statista. That, football fans, is an increase of 61.6 percent.

The U.S. inflation rate rose 19.3 percent from February 2006 to February 2016.

(And let's not forget the on-field portion of the equation. The O's, under former manager Sam Perlozzo, finished 2006 in fourth place in the American League East with a 70-92 record. That was actually four games worse than they did in 2005, which got then-manager Lee Mazzilli fired in August. The Brian Billick and Steve McNair-led Ravens finished the 2006 regular season 13-3, winning their first AFC North title and earning a first-round bye in the playoffs. But, as we painfully remember, they lost to the Indianapolis Colts -- at home -- in their first playoff game.)

While it's interesting to look at how big a dent entertainment puts into our wallets, local economics guru Anirban Basu said that the economics of oligopolistic or monopolistic industries are different from what we observe economy-wide. (Oligopolies are pretty much the same as monopolies, except that more than one entity dominates the industry.)

"With ticket prices, at least, a franchise operator must pay homage to the fact that people have only so much discretionary income to spend," said Basu, chairman and CEO of Baltimore-based economic and policy consulting firm Sage Policy Group Inc. "And they must also respect the fact that if somebody doesn't go to the ballpark, they can still see the baseball game on MASN or perhaps on some other station on any given night."

There are only two MLB teams in the region. And only two NFL franchises. 

Movies are "a more competitive environment, granted, than professional football or baseball in Baltimore or Maryland," Basu said. "But there are only a handful of places where one can actually watch a particular movie at any given time."

There is competition for the entertainment dollar between movie theaters and sports teams, Basu said, but not for rabid fans.

"When we're talking about professional sports, we're talking about sports fans, and for the sports fan, particularly I would say for the NFL fan, where there are only eight home games a year that count, that sports fan is going to place an enormous premium on attending one of eight games, and watching a movie may not be particularly good competition for the game itself," he said.

Speaking of competition, the Orioles were starting their second season of head-to-head competition with the Washington Nationals in 2006. And in May of that year, after 17 months of owning the team, MLB announced it was selling the Nats to Washington developer Ted Lerner for $450 million. MLB had bought the then-Montreal Expos from Jeffrey Loria for $120 million, earning a nice 275 percent profit that was shared by Angelos and the 28 other team owners.

According to Forbes magazine, the Nationals are now worth $1.3 billion, the ninth-most valuable team in MLB, just behind the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and just ahead of the Philadelphia Phillies. Forbes values the Orioles at $1 billion, sandwiched between the Chicago White Sox ($1.05 billion) and the Pittsburgh Pirates ($975 million).

Angelos and his fellow investors bought the Orioles at auction in 1993 for a then-record $173 million.

(Daniel Snyder's Washington Redskins are valued by Forbes at $2.85 billion, third highest in the NFL; Biscotti's Ravens are valued at $1.93 billion, No. 12 in the rankings.)

"Most businesses have not enjoyed the spectacular gains in valuations of Major League Baseball teams or NFL franchises," Basu said. "And many of us know that the rate of return on purchasing these professional franchises will be quite high, but most of us don't have nearly enough capital to even contemplate such an acquisition."

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell knows all about the spectacular gains in valuations of NFL teams. After working in the league office for 22 years, he was chosen by the owners Aug. 8, 2006 to succeed the retiring Paul Tagliabue as the league's commissioner. Goodell beat out four other candidates, including Baltimore's Mayo Shattuck, who at the time was president, CEO and chairman of Constellation Energy.

Goodell officially took over the job Sept. 1, 2006, and in his first seven months on the job earned $6.5 million, according to government filings made by the league. 

His 2014 compensation was $34.14 million, according to filings, which included a $3.5 million base salary and a $26.5 million bonus. That's actually down a little from 2013, when Goodell's total compensation was $35 million, and a lot from 2012, when he earned $44 million.

Goodell's salary figures were available because up until 2015, the NFL (not the individual teams) was classified as a nonprofit trade group and had to make yearly filings that included salaries of top executives.

The league gave up that status in 2015, eliminating the sometimes-embarrassing disclosures.

Issue 220: April 2016