Sales of Sports Video to Jump to $50 Million

Times Staff Writer

The sports video market is booming.

This year it will become a $50-million market, according to projections from Betsy Niesyn, managing editor of the trade newsletter Home Video Publisher. In each of the last two years, the market total has been $40 million.

Industry executives cite a variety of factors for the surge, including lower prices, better quality and new marketing methods.

In the latter category, for example, is the fact that mass merchants such as Target and K mart have become a significant outlet for sports videos.


“Most of the (sports) tapes are shipped to the mass merchants--about three-quarters of them,” said Peter Liguori, marketing manager of HBO, which specializes in boxing tapes. “That has helped build up the sports video market tremendously.”

In the old days, sports video companies had to rely heavily on video retailers, who have traditionally been too concerned with stocking hit movies to set aside much shelf space for anything else. That left the limited catalogue/mail-order route as the primary outlet for sports videos.

Also helping to fuel the boom has been the premium sales business. Companies such as Sports Illustrated now buy sports videos--particularly blooper tapes--to use as promotional giveaways.

“It’s a big market now,” said Janice Whiffen, vice president of marketing at Media Home Video, distributor of the National Football League video series. “A sports-video company can sell hundreds of thousands of copies of a tape that way. The profit margins are small, but you can sell a lot of tapes very easily that way.”

Sports-video producers have also learned to make their programs more entertaining. “The product is much better,” said John Gaffney of CBS-Fox, which releases National Basketball Assn. tapes. “People are willing to spend money for a better product.”

But they don’t want to spend too much. That’s why the drop in price has also been a huge factor is the growth of the sports video market.

“Sports videos used to cost $30 or $40 just three years ago,” Whiffen said. “The price was a problem. Now everyone is in the volume business--sell as many as you can at a low price. Now just about everything is $19.95 or even cheaper. That’s more appealing to consumers.”

Most sports video are either instructional or documentaries--a category dominated by the sport’s bloopers tapes, like those put out by the National Football League’s video company.

“Documentaries, meaning those blooper tapes, sell better than instructional because they have all-around appeal,” said Niesyn of Home Video Publisher. “The bloopers tapes have a broad audience, while tennis or golf instructional tapes are just for people who are into that sport. Those blooper tapes sell well at the mass-merchant level.”

Highlight tapes released right after a pro championship are popular too, like the NFL’s Super Bowl winners’ series. CBS-Fox has had success with Lakers’ championship videos and will soon market a Detroit Pistons program.

MPI had a surprise hit in 1985 with “The Super Bowl Shuffle,” featuring members of the colorful Chicago Bears rapping to dance music. Other videos presenting members of other football teams rapping weren’t as successful, however.

In the instructional market, Niesyn said, the four most popular sports-video categories are golf, tennis, baseball and basketball.

“There are more golf tapes on the market than any other kind of sports video,” she said. “Golf is like a religion to golfers. They’ll do anything to improve their game. Some golf tapes are very expensive, but those golfers don’t care. In numbers of tapes on the market, tennis is next. But tennis players aren’t as fanatical as golf nuts, so those tapes don’t sell quite as well. Tapes for these solitary sports do better than tapes for organized sports like baseball and basketball.”

Here’s a list of the top sports videos, compiled by Home Video Publisher:

Best-selling sports videos 1. “Not So Great Moments in Sports” (HBO, $14.95). 800,000 units.

2. “All-New Not So Great Moments in Sports” (HBO, $14.95). 700,000. units.

3. “Automatic Golf: Bob Mann” (Simitar, $14.95). 650,000 units.

4. “NFL Crunch Course” (Media, $19.95). 500,000 units.

5. “Best of Football Follies” (Media, $19.95). 400,000 units.

Golf 1. “Automatic Golf: Bob Mann” (Simitar, $14.95). 650,000 units.

2. “Golf My Way” (Royal Vision, $85). 145,000 units.

3. “Golf Like a Pro” (Morris, $19.95). 80,000 units.

4. “Driving for Distance” (Golf Digest Video, $29.95). 73,000 units.

Tennis 1. “Jimmy Conners’ Tennis: Winning Fundamentals” (Vestron, $39.95). 40,000 units.

2. “Jimmy Conners’ Tennis: Match Strategy.” (Vestron, $39.98). 40,000 units.

3. “Tennis With Stan Smith” (SyberVision Systems, $89.95). 37,000 units.

Baseball 1. “Mets: A Year to Remember” (Rainbow, $19.95). 125,000 units.

2. “Mickey Mantle’s Baseball Tips” (CBS-Fox, $19.98). 65,000 units.

3. “Pete Rose’s Winning Baseball” (Nelson/Orion, $19.98). 55,000 units.

Basketball 1. “Winning Basketball With Larry Bird” (Kodak, $19.95). 60,000 units.

2. “Dr. J’s Basketball Stuff” (CBS-Fox, $19.98). 50,000 units.