Sports mean big business. Why do you think cities from all around the world are vying to host giant events like the Olympics or the World Cup? Part of it is the prestige that comes with being able to host something so important, but a bigger part of it has something to do with the business aspect of things. These events can generate a great deal of money, not directly but through the influx of business that it would bring in. But sports can serve directly as a business too. That comes in the form of professional sports leagues.

Professional sports leagues make up a billion dollar industry around the world. There are many professional sports leagues in different countries, and some are bigger than others. Here are some of the biggest leagues in the world today in terms of profit.

National Basketball Association

The NBA is the third biggest professional sports league in the United States. In 2006, the total profit of all the teams in the league reached an astounding $207 million. That’s not bad, in fact that profit is great considering where basketball came from. Basketball was not considered to be an international game a few years ago. It is mostly an American sports that generated little interest in other countries.

But things started to change when Michael Jordan started to play in the league. As Jordan started to dominate the NBA, interest for basketball was fuelled. His fiery personality on the court and his exemplary off-the-court behaviour made him a role model and a star that transcended basketball. Then Dream Team came along to play in the Olympics and the world saw how exciting basketball really is. That was really when the NBA became really big.

The NBA is now focused on three major business drives. They want to get more sponsorship, they want to get a wider fan base and they are expanding into international market. They are largely successful in those aims.

Formula One

FIA Formula One World Championship or Formula One and more popularly as F1 is a single seat auto racing that have been sanctioned by the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA). The term F1 refers to a set of rules that must be followed by the drivers and the teams.

The transformation of Formula One into becoming a billion dollar industry started in the 1970s. that was when Bernie Ecclestone made arrangements on how the business and commercial side of F1 racing should be arranged. With a viewership in the hundreds of millions, Formula One reaps a great deal of money from sponsorships. Its popularity is spreading to other countries where it did not have presence in the past.

Major League Baseball

Major League Baseball has gone through some tough times in the recent past. Back in 2004, the teams in the league reported a loss that amounted to $57 million. But by 2006 it was able to recover already. In that year, MLB reported an income that was almost $500 million. That was a huge turnaround that was fuelled by the construction of newer and bigger stadiums and aggressive marketing of the teams. Major League Baseball has the highest season attendance in the world for a professional league.

English Premier League

The English Premier League is the most watched football league in the whole world which says a lot already considering how popular football is in many countries. It is also the primary football league in England. With new deals coming in, that makes the league even more profitable than before. It is bound to grow bigger in the years to come.

National Football League

The National Football League or the NFL is without question the biggest sports league in the United States and of the biggest in the world today. It has become a business empire and a national pastime at the same time. What is unique is that the game played in the league is a sport that has limited appeal outside of the United States. American football is not really an international sport.

The NFL has annual revenue amounting to $9.5 billion. That’s a lot of money, but in order to appreciate that amount fully, it should be compared with the revenues of other leagues. MLB has an annual revenue of $7 billion and the NBA $4 billion. That revenue places the NFL as the biggest sports league not just in the United States but in the whole world. It surpasses the leagues for soccer which is the most popular sport in the whole world.

Why is the NFL So Profitable?

A huge factor in the NFL’s profitability is the television deals that it is able to land with different networks. The NFL has landed deals with several networks, namely CBS, Fox, NBC and ESPN. Each network pays the league in millions of dollars each year for the right to broadcast the games. Those deals amount to earnings of up to $5 billion each year up until 2022 season. That covers more than half of the revenues of the league. The TV revenues of the other professional leagues pale in comparison with what the NFL is making.

Networks are willing to pay serious money for the right to broadcast the NFL games because a lot of people watch American football on TV. It makes up 92% of all American TV shows that get more than 40 million viewers. It means that if a network is able to land an NFL deal then they are sure to get millions of viewers. They don’t have to worry about coming up with shows that are not guaranteed to get viewers. Football will always be watched.

But fans are not just staying at home to watch their teams, they are also coming out by the tens of thousands to watch them play live. The NFL has ultra-modern stadiums that can hold double than the stadiums used by professional baseball teams.

Another indication of how bigger the NFL is than the other professional sports leagues not just in the United States but in the rest of the world is the value of the teams in it. Based on the list released by Forbes, more than half of the 50 most valuable professional sports teams belong to the NFL. That is a lot more than any other league.

There are no signs that the dominance of the NFL is going to change any time soon. Though the other sports leagues are becoming popular and are expanding, the NFL is still growing too. The Super Bowl, which is the ultimate event in the league, can be considered to be an unofficial national holiday in the United States already. No other sporting event in the world can generate as much interest as that single game. Super Bowl XLV in 2010 is the most watched TV event in the history of the United States. Super Bowl is also the second biggest date when it comes to food consumption in the US. It only comes second to Thanksgiving which proves that a lot of people really consider it to be a holiday.

Those are just some of the biggest and most profitable sports leagues in the world today. There are others that have not been included which can also be compared in terms of profitability and revenue.