Top 5 Professional Sports Leagues that Make the Most Revenue

Raymond M
3 min readAug 3, 2018


The 2018 FIFA World Cup has ended, and for Americans the NFL preseason is about to begin. While football is played and watched worldwide, average Americans watch American football, baseball, and basketball almost exclusively. But which Sports League in the world makes the most money? Here are the top 5 professional sports leagues that generate the most revenue according to data from 2016.

5. National Hockey League (NHL) — Hockey — USA/Canada — $3.7 Billion

At number 5, this league makes most of their money from ticket sales but that varies depending on the team’s stadium size. The big teams like NY, Montreal, and Toronto break a billion because of their more expensive tickets. TV deals are apart of the league’s revenue but not as concentrated because each team reaches their own deal.

4. National Basketball Association (NBA) — Basketball— USA — $4.8 Billion

At number 4, over half of the Association’s revenue beginning from 2016 is from TV deals with ESPN and TBS at $2.6 billion annually. A nine year deal was reached with the two companies right’s to broadcast NBA games. Again ticket sales are always a large part of sports revenue. Their most lucrative sponsor is still Nike with an 1$ billion eight year deal to produce teams’ jerseys and supply basketball shoes, as well as individual player endorsements.

3. Premier League — Association Football — England/Wales — $5.3/£4 Billion

The only non North American league to make it on this list makes a large majority of their revenue through TV deals. From 2016 to 2019 the League has reached a £8.4 billion deal with domestic and international broadcasters.

2. Major League Baseball (MLB) — Baseball — USA/Canada —$9.5 Billion

In this league, their main source of revenue comes from TV broadcasting deals with major distributors like the 8 year deal with ESPN and the 7 year deal with Fox to broadcast their games. The teams makes revenue through ticket deals, like annual passes to their games. When fans come to the games, they’ll also spend money on ballpark concessions, which the Yankees alone made $53 million in 2013.

  1. National Football League (NFL) — American Football — USA — $13 Billion

In America there is no greater annual sports event than the Superbowl, which is your typical finals game that pits the year’s two greatest teams for the championship. However, in America the Superbowl is anything but a game, but a nationwide event, where fans host parties for the viewing event or fill the stadium it’s being played at. The Superbowl is not only able to appeal to football fans, but also to general audiences through exclusive TV spots/advertisements that debut during the sports event; TV spots so exclusive that companies pay at least $5 million just to get 30 seconds of ad time during the game. While, marketing is not the only factor in how the NFL makes revenue, their aggressive marketing strategy is a significant factor.

The trend here is that the most profitable sports leagues in the world come from the US and Canada, with the “Big 4” making majority of this list. However, if we were to examine the top 10 most profitable leagues, 6 out of 10 spots would belong to Association Football as of 2016.