Top 5 Business Stories to Watch in MLB in 2011

With baseball’s Opening Day next week, here is a quick look at the top 5 business stories to watch for this season.

1)      Dodgers, Mets and Astros ownership situations

Will the Dodgers be forced to sell in order to pay for the pending divorce settlement between Frank and Jamie McCourt?  Will an investor step up to allow Frank to maintain ownership of the team?  Will MLB change their stance and allow Fox to be that investor after recently declining this original proposal?  Will the Dodgers sever ties with Fox and join the Lakers as part of Time Warner’s new RSN in 2012?

The Mets situation is much different, but if they lose their legal battle with the Madoff court appointed trustee will they be forced to sell the entire team now rather than a portion as first reported when the lawsuit originally called for $300 million. 

The sale of the Astros is getting much less notice and being kept fairly quiet.  Again there are much different circumstances as Drayton McLane is not being forced to sell.  However, it will be interesting to see who surfaces as potential bidders and yet another team will change ownership.

We’ll see if all three of these team’s hands are tied throughout the season and how this may impact their overall operations. 

2)      After a slight decline (0.5%) in overall attendance in 2010, will ticket sales show growth in 2011?  Will more teams adopt dynamic ticket pricing and how will it impact revenue?  Will more Groupon type offers for ticket discounts appear?

3)      Digital watch: How will teams continue to expand on their social media efforts?  Will MLBAM’s experiment of live streaming Spring Training games via Facebook roll over into the regular season?  How will the influx of new tablet products and the continued growth of Smartphone use impact overall baseball consumption?  Will in-market streaming show growth or will it remain insignificant in numbers?

4)      Will the 2011 MLB All-Star Game and HR Derby rebound from last year’s disappointing numbers (7.5 rating for ASG in 2010 was an all time low)?

5)      With the current CBA ending this December, will baseball avoid any chance of a possible work stoppage and sign a new deal?  Will they learn from their past mistakes and avert the current negativity surrounding the NFL and NBA situations?  After 16 years of labor peace and unprecedented growth, will they kill the golden goose?  Seems unlikely, but you never know…