David Carter, 42, has written three books on the business of sports and appears as an expert on "Today" and public radio's “Marketplace Report.” His Sports Business Group consults for teams and stadiums and since 1994 he has taught sports at USC. He started the Sports Business Institute in the Marshall School of Business there and more recently co-launched Sports Business Ventures, a private equity group. LA Observed contributor David Davis interviews him in this week's Los Angeles Business Journal (subscribers only) and learned that he gets up at 4 am to start reading newspapers and the Internet and watching “SportsCenter” on ESPN.
"I have to make sure that I’m fluent in all breaking sports news because you never know when an existing or potential client or the media will call, " Carter says. "There’s an old saying that you have to read the sports pages twice. Once, from back to front, because the back is where all the transactions and trades and signings are found. Then, if you’re a fan, you read it front to back." More excerpts:
Q: Do you watch a lot of sports on television? A: It’s actually minimal. It probably turns out to out to be a few hours a week. During the course of the year it’s largely checking in on big events to see how they are being presented, trying to understand what the advertisers are thinking and so forth. I am watching them but not necessarily as a fan is watching them.
Q: But don’t you have any favorite sport?
A: College football. It still has some sense of amateurism and unpredictability. And I just say that having got back from Corvalis, Ore., where USC lost (to Oregon State).
Q: What is the key issue in sports business today?
A: In the1990s, it was a lot about the public financing of stadiums. This decade, it’s about accessing global markets and figuring out how to take advantage of technology. That’s no different than what every other industry is going through.
Q: How about this market?
A: With every passing day, we’re becoming a more diverse community – ethnically, education levels, in terms of where people are living. It suggests that if you’re running a sports organization, you had better make sure you don’t have a one-size-fits-all marketing strategy. The other part of it is customer service, and how do you balance the ability of a family of four to go to a game with the business demands of fielding a team and generating revenue.
Q: Wouldn’t losing that family of four at games be short-sighted on the part of the owners?
A: Yes and no. It’s acceptable business practice to move fans out of the stadium and onto America’s couches. As long as they’re consuming sports, it’s not the end of the world. Long-term, however, leagues have an interest in their teams in perpetuity.
Q: L.A. hasn’t had an NFL team since 1995. What’s the problem?
A: With California it always boils down to real estate values and the tax environment – that is, whether the public sector and the taxpayers are willing to support football. As real estate prices continue to escalate, clearly the cost of doing stadiums anywhere in our region has gone up dramatically. The margins that an NFL owner might make out of this market might be pretty slim. If bringing an NFL franchise to L.A. were such a financial slam-dunk, private money would be flowing into that project.
Q: How about that recent report estimating the cost of an NFL stadium in L.A. at $1 billion?
A: I think it’s an incredibly sobering number. Whether or not that number is accurate in terms of construction and other costs, it accurately depicts the cost of doing sports business in this market.
He lives in Redondo Beach, coached his daughter's soccer team to a winless season and calls Don Klosterman (the late football executive) his greatest influence.