The KHL regular season is over. Now is the time to look at the most interesting news over the last couple of days. And, I will discuss the KHL Fan Cost Index too.
Who Will Be the Gagarin Cup Champion?
The 2018-19 KHL regular season finished with an average of 6,392 spectators per game, the second best-attended regular season ever. The league’s record is 6,423 spectators per game in the 2014-15 season. Overal, almost five million people visited KHL games this season. A huge sign of the growth of the league.
The upcoming Gagarin Cup playoffs will be very interesting. There are several candidates for the most prestigious European hockey trophy.
There are the traditional contenders, CSKA Moscow and SKA St.Petersburg, no doubts about that. But we also need to take Lokomotiv into account. The winner of the battle between Jokerit and Dynamo Moscow will cause trouble against any team they come up against as well.
The Eastern Conference is even stronger. It is a toss-up, with Avtomobilist, Metallurg Magnitogorsk, Avangard, Ak Bars or even Barys possibly making it to the Gagarin Cup Final. The battle between Avangard and Ak Bars will be very tough. Furthermore, the Kazan’s team is the defending champion and will not want to finish their playoff campaign in the first round. Despite their disappointing regular season, Salavat Yulaev can surprise the fans. So, let us start!
The pairings in the first round are as follows
(1) CSKA Moscow – Vityaz (8)
(2) SKA St.Petersburg – Spartak Moscow (7)
(3) Lokomotiv Yaroslavl – Sochi (6)
(4) Jokerit Helsinki – Dynamo Moscow (5)
(1) Avtomobilist Ekaterinburg – Traktor Chelyabinsk (8)
(2) Barys Astana – Torpedo N.Novgorod (7)
(3) Metallurg Magnitogorsk – Salavat Yulaev Ufa (6)
(4) Avangard Omsk – Ak Bars Kazan (5)
2018-19 KHL Fan Cost Index
Now, we take a look at another topic. One that is crucial for the further development of the league.
The KHL as a business entity needs their clubs to be located in cities which the purchasing power is high enough to afford as many expensive tickets, and as much merchandise as possible. And in fact, the club’s income to be higher. That is the theory, but what is the reality?
The Russian business outlet Business Gazeta calculated the KHL Fan Cost Index (FCI) for the current season. The KHL helped the outlet with collecting information from clubs so we can consider the FCI as the official review.
I will not go into details of how they calculated it, I will just say it represents the expenses of a four-member family for one hockey game. So, they are game-day expenses like two game tickets for parents and two tickets for kids, some food and drinks for all family members during the match and, of course, a few pieces of merchandise such as a cap, scarf or jersey. The authors take into account the price for tickets opposite the benches in the middle of a venue. So, the ticket price is above average.
As we can see in the table, visiting a Jokerit home game is the most expensive for a family. No surprise here, because the cost of living in Helsinki is relatively high. And as expected, CSKA Moscow and SKA St.Petersburg are leading the ranking of the Russian teams. When we look at the bottom of the table, we can see Vityaz, Severstal, and Neftekhimik.
KHL Average Fan Profile
Finally, I would like to add the official numbers. The KHL’s average fan was described as a man over 45 years before 2014. The league under Chernyshenko’s leadership set their goal to break the trend and to be the league for families with kids. And the result? You can see it with your own eyes on TV. You can see the stands full of young people and kids. Moreover, Chernyshenko recently confirmed that the new league’s trend when saying, “our average audience is 34 years old, men (60%) overtaking women (40%). That is a really young fanbase.“
The KHL Aiming at the European TV Market
Now, I will look at the KHL’s business in details. The league has recently tried to convert clubs into healthy business entities. We will see if the league succeeds as they did with an average fanbase.
The KHL plans to share over ₽450m (around €6m) with clubs after the 2018-19 season. If it happens, it will be a ₽50m (€0,6m) increase over the last season. The value of KHL TV deals has risen by 10% annually. So, we can expect very similar growth in the upcoming years as well.
Finally, Sergey Dobrohkvalov, the KHL VP for marketing, recently admitted the KHL earns more money from international TV agreements than from Russian TV deals. This fact is one of the reasons for expansion. The European broadcasters are able to afford more expensive contracts than their Russian, especially regional, counterparts. But they need demand. In the first place, the KHL itself is a good product, but the consumer wants to see their local team. Yes, if there is a KHL club close to you, the demand is obvious.
Here I will give you an example. The KHL games between Slovan Bratislava and Lev Prague, even though Lev is not a traditional Slovan rival, were the most followed hockey events of the month in the media. Especially, the big hit by Zdeno Chára on Miroslav Šatan which was broadcasted and analysed over and over again by all media outlets. This game took place in November 2012 in Prague. I guess here, If the KHL expanded with traditional rival clubs or rival cities, the benefit could be even higher for the league, because Germany is a bigger and wealthier country than Slovakia and the Czech Republic. Moreover, Germany is going to be the key hockey market in the future, with all leagues aiming for it – the NHL, the KHL and even the Champions Hockey League.
How Will The KHL Look Next Season?
In conclusion, I will quote Dmitry Chernyshenko as saying, “It is not a secret, we have been working on Western and Eastern expansion. I mean Japan in the East and perhaps South Korea from a long-term perspective. We have been working with so many Western countries, the most progressed talks are with Germany and France. Except them, the work has been done in various countries, starting with Sweden and ending in the UK.”
That being said, I will just add a few notes. The KHL Board of Directors will meet on March 29. The topic of the meeting is obvious, the final decision on a list of teams for the next season. Traditionally, the league made that decision in May in the past. We will see if the final decision on that list will be made already in March this time.
How many teams will the KHL have in the 2019-20 season? Will there be any new teams? Who will leave the competition? What city will host the KHL World Games and the KHL All-Star Game? All questions will be addressed, I hope, at the end of March.
Feature Image Credit: (Photo by Sergey Mihailicenko/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)