According to Forbes Magazine, the Cowboys are the second most valuable sports team in the world with a value of $3.2 billion. They are worth slightly less than Real Madrid at $3.26 billion, and are tied with the New York Yankees as the most valuable sports franchise in North America.
The Cowboys still hold a comfortable lead over all other NFL franchises, with only the Patriots ($2.6 billion) and Redskins ($2.4 billion) even making the top ten of the world's most valuable sports franchises. The Cowboys have been the NFL’s most valuable team since 2007 thanks to the league’s highest sponsorship and premium seating revenues, and the Cowboys got an extra boost recently when they inked inked a 25-year stadium naming rights deal with AT&T. Forbes explains:
The team’s home, AT&T Stadium, is a cash cow. The Cowboys generate more than $100 million annually from both premium seating and sponsors, anchored by their 25-year, $500 million stadium naming rights deal with AT&T. The Cowboys are the most profitable team in sports with operating income of $246 million thanks to revenue that is 31% higher than any other NFL team and the NFL’s salary cap.
The other top NFL franchises, in order: #6 New England Patriots, #9 Washington Redskins, #12 New York Giants, #16 Houston Texans, #17 New York Jets, and #19 Philadelphia Eagles. Which makes the NFC East easily the most valuable division in any sport.
It is worth noting that according to Forbes, the Cowboys were worth "just" $1.85 billion a mere three years ago, which means the value of the franchise increased by $1.35 billion in just three years, an increase of 173%. And it's not just the Cowboys who've seen a dramatic surge in their value, as the table below shows.
|Top Seven NFL Teams|
||Change in %|
Even the Jets, who've managed to average just six wins per season over the last three years saw a dramatic increase in their franchise value. In fact, of the teams on the list, the Jets and Giants haven't even made the playoffs the last three years, and the Eagles and Redskins failed to win a playoff game. The seven teams on the list above may be the most valuable NFL franchises, but they are by no means the most successful on the field.
If you look at how the value of each of the seven teams has increased, you'll realize that all teams have increased their value within a certain bandwidth, regardless of their on-field success. Which just goes to show what a gigantic money-making machine the NFL is, and how revenue sharing means every owner gets a piece of the ginormous pie, regardless of the quality of product he puts on the field.
A lot of this valuation is driven by the league's earnings potential. And the league has done a lot to drive those earnings up: It's expanded its television footprint on Thursday nights, it would like to expand the playoffs from 12 to 14 teams, it's expanded its TV footprint on Sunday to include morning games (when played in London), and would dearly love to move to an 18-game schedule at some point. All because extra games will bring in billions of extra dollars in television revenue.
Ultimately though, if the NFL wants to continue to grow, it needs expand its revenue base, and one way of doing that is to move into new overseas markets. Presently, the NFL's appeal is mostly limited to North America, unlike soccer which enjoys a global appeal. Ultimately, this limits the NFL's growth potential.
This is one of the key reasons why the NFL now has three regular season games overseas and is thinking out loud about potentially locating an NFL team in London and perhaps adding games in Mexico or Germany, and you'll hear more suggestions along those lines over the coming months and years.
But for now, there's still a lot of revenue to be made on the domestic market; locating one or even two teams in Los Angeles is going to drive up the NFL's revenue stream and value more than some jet lag-challenged team in London will do any time soon. And it will ultimately make the Cowboys the most valuable franchise in the world.