Thursday, August 6, 2009

Exclusive League Licensing + Exclusive Player Licensing = One Big Mess

By know you are aware that MLB has granted an exclusive, multi-year licensing deal to The Topps Company. This comes on the heels of the NBA providing an exclusive league license to Panini. These two moves follow a similar deal cut by Upper Deck and the NHL a few years ago.

Monopolies are never good. They dampen the necessity for creativity and innovation to stay competitive and they force their respective consumer bases into limited options in what should be a free market.

Compounding all these moves is the fact that, with the exception of the NHLPA, the leagues player unions still allow their players to sign exclusive individual deals with manufacturers. The fallout from such legal hoops has most recently culminated in a sub par product in 2009-10 Draft Basketball recently released by Upper Deck. A product dependent on only 5 of the top 10 draft picks and three superstars in Michael, Kobe and LeBron, does not a basketball set make, resulting in the set being augmented with non-basketball content from the likes of Jennie Finch and Michael Phelps to name a few.

In baseball, collector's will know have no choice but to purchase Topps products devoid of some of today's current stars in Derek Jeter and Griffey to name a few. If the leagues want to go the route of exclusive licensing that is obviously their choice, however to not have the PA's inboard and make these moves before player exclusive deals expire only creates a product climate where no one manufacturer can create an all inclusive product of today's best talent.

Michael Eisner says the move was necessary to bring more kids back into the hobby to grow the product category. What about the rest of us? Older collectors who prefer higher end product content? I would have liked to have seen MLB done 2 things differently. One, provide Upper Deck a retired player product only license, and two, make Upper Deck release it's exclusives with Ichiro, Jeter and other current active players in their stable and likewise make Topps relinquish the CMG deal which provides exclusive licensing for some of the games greatest retired players. This would have been a win-win for everyone, (monopolies being bad, but going to happen whether we like it or not) Topps and Upper Deck would then be able to focus on product development in their respective areas of expertise devoid of the hodge-podge that MLB has decided to create instead.

What do YOU think?


Andrew said...

I totally agree with you. Athletes should not have exclusive deals for sports cards because they clearly detract from their respective games' marketability. Most of these athletes already have more lucrative sponsorships and deals, so why take away something as simple as sports cards from their devoted fan base?

night owl said...

The player exclusivity aspect is a good point. How many players would be left out of a Topps product because they arranged exclusive deals with UD or someone else?

If it's only a handful (even if it's Pujols and Jeter), I'll live. If it's more than that, well that's a problem.

Anonymous said...

Pujols signs for Topps and UD.

UD's exclusives are Jeter, Griffey, Ichiro, and Dice-K.

Either way, this is all bullshit.

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