How Do Pro Sports Teams Make Money? (NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL)

Professional sports teams across the globe generate significant revenue every year, allowing them to pay high salaries to their players and staff.

But how do these teams make money?

Below we will break down the key income sources for four major North American professional sports leagues:

  • National Football League (NFL)
  • National Basketball Association (NBA)
  • Major League Baseball (MLB), and
  • National Hockey League (NHL)

Ticket Sales

Ticket sales are a primary source of income for professional sports teams.

Fans paying to watch games live at stadiums and arenas provide a steady stream of revenue.

The more successful the team, the higher the demand for tickets, leading to higher ticket prices and greater income.

Stadiums also offer premium seating, like boxes and VIP areas, which sell for significantly more than regular seats.

Broadcasting Rights

Broadcasting rights are another major source of revenue.

Networks pay huge sums of money to televise games, and these contracts can span many years.

The money from these contracts is usually shared between the teams in the league.

The advent of streaming services has also opened up new opportunities for revenue from broadcasting rights.


Teams also make money through merchandising, which includes the sale of team jerseys, hats, and other memorabilia.

These items not only bring in direct revenue but also help to promote the team’s brand.

Some teams have even extended their merchandise offerings to include things like video games and toys, further expanding their potential income.

Sponsorships and Advertising

Sponsorship and advertising are critical sources of income for pro sports teams.

Companies pay to have their logos displayed on team jerseys, within stadiums, and during broadcasts.

High-profile teams can command significant fees for these opportunities due to the large, engaged audiences they attract.

Concessions and Parking

At every sports game, fans spend money on food, drinks, and parking.

This is another source of income that can be significant, especially for teams with large stadiums.

Some teams also make money from concert and event hosting during the off-season, making use of their venue to bring in additional income.

Licensing Fees

Professional sports teams can generate revenue from licensing their brand to third parties.

This can include everything from video game franchises using team names and logos, to companies producing collectible items or clothing featuring the team’s branding.

Player Transfers

For some sports, player transfers can be a significant source of revenue, particularly for teams that are good at identifying and developing talent.

When these players are sold to other teams, the original team can often earn a sizeable transfer fee.

How NFL Teams Make Money

FAQs – How Do Pro Sports Teams Make Money?

1. How does an NFL team generate revenue?

Most of the revenue generated by NFL teams comes from television contracts.

The league signs multi-billion dollar deals with major networks for the rights to broadcast games, and this money is then distributed equally among the 32 teams.

Other significant sources of income include ticket sales, sponsorships, merchandise sales, and licensing fees.

Some NFL teams also make money from real estate developments around their stadiums.

2. What are the main sources of income for NBA teams?

NBA teams generate revenue primarily from three sources: local and national media rights, ticket sales, and corporate sponsorships.

The league negotiates media rights deals with television networks for the rights to broadcast games, with each team receiving an equal share.

Ticket sales are another substantial revenue source, with teams earning money from both regular season and playoff games.

Corporate sponsorships include everything from jersey advertisements to naming rights for arenas.

How Does the NBA Make Money?

3. How do MLB teams earn money?

MLB teams generate revenue from various sources, the most significant being broadcasting rights – both local and national.

Teams earn substantial amounts from regional sports networks for local TV rights.

Other sources of income include ticket sales for regular and post-season games, corporate sponsorships, concession sales at the stadium, merchandise sales, and licensing fees.

4. How does an NHL team make money?

NHL teams make money through several sources. The league negotiates national TV deals, with each team receiving a share of the profits.

Teams also make money from local TV and radio deals, ticket sales, corporate sponsorships, and merchandise sales.

In addition, some NHL teams earn revenue from operating their arena, which can host concerts and other events.

5. How do broadcasting rights affect a team’s revenue?

Broadcasting rights play a vital role in a team’s revenue.

Leagues negotiate these rights with television networks and digital platforms for substantial sums of money.

These rights can be national or local.

National broadcasting rights are generally shared equally among all teams, while local rights are typically negotiated by individual teams, allowing teams in larger media markets to earn more.

6. How do ticket sales contribute to a sports team’s revenue?

Ticket sales are a critical component of a sports team’s revenue.

This includes sales for regular-season games, post-season games, and in some cases, preseason games.

The price of tickets varies based on the team, the opponent, the location of the game (home or away), and the location of the seat within the stadium or arena.

7. How do merchandise sales and licensing fees generate income for sports teams?

Sports teams make money by selling merchandise such as jerseys, hats, and other team-branded items.

In addition, teams can earn revenue by licensing their logos and trademarks for use on merchandise.

This can be a significant income source, especially for popular teams with large, dedicated fan bases.

8. How does real estate development contribute to a team’s revenue?

Some pro sports teams generate additional income through real estate development.

They may own the land around their arenas or stadiums and can profit from leasing this space, developing it into commercial or residential properties, or hosting events.

This can provide a substantial revenue stream, particularly in high-demand urban areas.

9. How do corporate sponsorships affect a team’s revenue?

Corporate sponsorships can contribute significantly to a team’s revenue.

Companies pay to have their names associated with the team or its venue.

This can range from advertising signage in the stadium, to the corporate logo on team jerseys, to naming rights for the entire arena or stadium.

The value of these deals can vary greatly depending on the team’s popularity and market size.

10. How are revenues shared among teams in a league?

In many professional sports leagues, there’s a system of revenue sharing where a portion of the total revenue generated by all teams is pooled and then distributed evenly among the teams.

This system aims to promote competitive balance by ensuring that smaller-market teams have enough resources to compete with larger-market teams.

The details of these arrangements can vary by league and are often a significant point of negotiation in collective bargaining agreements between the league and the players’ union.


Professional sports teams generate income from a variety of sources.

While the specifics can vary between leagues and sports, most teams make money from ticket sales, broadcasting rights, merchandising, sponsorships, concessions, licensing fees, and player transfers.

These revenues are then used to cover expenses such as player salaries, facility maintenance, and team operations, with any surplus potentially leading to profit for the team’s owners.


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