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Who's Profiting From Jeremy Lin and 'Linsanity'

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Jeremy lin Sacramento Kings - H 2012
Chris Trotman/Getty Images
Jeremy Lin

Lin-mania is translating into higher TV ratings, big bucks for the New York Knicks and the NBA and huge opportunities for the fast-rising star; his agent is even seeking help.

In the latest proof that “Lin-mania” surrounding the rapid rise of Jeremy Lin as a star on the New York Knicks basketball team  is only gaining strength, the MSG Network reported Wednesday that the last two telecasts of the team are the highest rated since the network began tracking household ratings at the start of the 1988-89 NBA season.

The Friday game scored a 7.3 Nielsen rating (540,788 households) and Monday pulled a 7.34 (542,265 households).

To put that in perspective, the game last Friday was the third-highest rated program in the New York market among all shows that aired at that time. The telecasts on Friday and Monday both outperformed the average rating of every local network broadcast.

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This means through the first seven games on MSG – a regional broadcaster serving the largest U.S. media market -- in which Lin has been a starter, the Knicks’s average household rating has increased 138 percent compared to the prior 20 games. Lin’s presence has also meant a 82 percent increase in the average season to date household rating compared to the first 27 games last season.

Those games were also among the first to air in the New York market on Time Warner Cable, following a deal made to renew carriage of MSG’s channels. The two sides had been at odds, and Knicks games had not been on the cable outlet since the end of December, as they were at odds over the amount of an increase in the price Time Warner pays for the carriage.

With pressure from government leaders as well as fans, Time Warner made the deal. While no figures have been released, it is believed they paid more than they wanted because the demand to see Lin play was so intense.

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ABC/ESPN, which carries NBA games nationally, carried a recent Sunday game in which the Knicks played the league champion Dallas Mavericks, racking up ABC’s third-highest ratings for a regular season game (not played Christmas day) since 2002.

Adidas, the official clothing sponsor of the NBA, rushed to bring out a whole line of jerseys, T-shirts and other products, at prices up to $90 per item; while other retailers printed the Lin name on blank shirts and souvenirs to meet the demand. Thousands of Lin related items are being sold on eBay and elsewhere.

Lin’s success has put the Knicks’s on the fast track to possibly make the NBA playoffs for the first time in years and has already greatly enriched the team and its owners through greatly increased merchandise and ticket sales and more – and that is only the start for the team, it’s owners and for Lin.

While he will only make the NBA minimum salary of $762,195 this season, a little over $9,000 game – Lin is positioned to become a lucrative licensing and merchandising phenomena that can last years, as long as his career continues to soar.

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“He has had an enormous impact,” says Brian Swallow, senior vp, strategy and business development, for Fanatics Inc., an online sports merchandise seller that runs the official store of the NBA, as well as online stores for the NFL, MLB and others.

Swallow says since the 23-year-old Asian American arrived in early February, 60 percent of all Knicks-related sales of jerseys, T-shirts and other items has been related to Lin. In terms of their entire business for all teams and all sports, Lin currently represents 9 out of the top 20 sellers. On their search engine, Lin and Jeremy Lin are the two most searched terms on their sites. Lin has even become the top seller for Fathead, which markets enlarged images of players and personalities.

“Nothing like this has every happened from a player perspective,” says Swallow. “This is a player on a team that is not a league champion and it’s a hot market related to only that player.”

On social media, including Twitter in the U.S. and in Asia, interest in Lin has soared. Time Magazine even put Lin on the cover of its Asia edition last week.

“From a merchants point of view or from a sports fans point of view,” adds Swallow, “nobody can remember anything like this where somebody came out of nowhere and all of a sudden looks like one of if not the best player in the league.”

“If you look at the short term impact Lin is having on the Knicks alone,” says Patrick Rishe, an assistant professor at Webster University in St. Louis who specializes in sports economics, “I’m speculating that by the end of this season his impact could mean anywhere from $10 million to $20 million (for the Knicks).”

Rishe says that it is not only soaring merchandise sales and increased ticket sales (at higher prices) but also “the fact prior to this resurgence the Knicks had a lot of no-shows who now are actually showing up. This means you’re getting concessions and parking and other facility revenue you otherwise would not get.”

If the Knicks make the playoffs because of Lin, which is a real possibility, Rishe points out that would mean income from extra games both on site and on TV.

The higher ratings since Lin arrived will also translate into higher ad revenues, although that may take a while. “It depends on how many of those ads had already been sold,” explains Rishe. “But there is no question that next season this will have an even greater impact."

These benefits also spill over to the NBA, which Rishe says has already made deals to show more games in Asia – especially Taiwan and China – and by next year will make even bigger deals.

“Long-term next year the Knicks revenue cold be an additional $25 million to $50 million than they would have been without Lin,” says Rishe.

He estimates the impact on the NBA’s revenue which is about $4 billion for a full season of games will be one to two percent. “We suspect Lin could be responsible for $40 million to $80 million in higher revenues,” says Rishe. “His impact on the league revenue stream is really quite amazing.”