Month: February 2012

Why is NBA TV viewership up so much?

The first 325 games of this NBA season averaged attendance of 17,094. That’s better than 89 percent of capacity, and a hair better than the first 325 games of last season, which averaged 17,057.

But almost every other indicator blows those in-arena numbers away. Viewership is going a bit nuts:

  • ABC has had just three games, so it’s hard to say anything conclusive, but the audience is up five percent compared to a year ago.
  • ESPN viewership is up 23 percent.
  • TNT viewership is up 50 percent.
  • NBA TV viewership is up an insane 66 percent.
  • NBA on regional cable sports networks are up 12 percent.
  • Local over-the-airwaves broadcasts are up 36 percent.

NBA TV is particularly interesting. Five of the channel’s ten most viewed games ever have been this season, with January’s Lakers-Clippers game the most viewed game in network history.

That is from Henry Abbott, here is more.  Many people thought the strike would hurt fan interest, but apparently not.  (It did hurt my interest, but not out of any grudge; I tuned into a few early games and found them unspeakably bad in terms of quality.  By now most players seem to be in shape, although blowouts and lopsided low scores remain too common.  I believe the spread of the “team coordination” variable has increased.)  Is this a behavioral effect?  Like taking the peanuts away and making people crave them more?

Do more frequent games, in response to the strike-shortened season, spur a greater “habit formation” demand?  Do more frequent games imply that a major star is playing on TV virtually every night?  That is my hypothesis.  How will the NBA respond?

By the way, I have a longstanding custom of predicting, or rather failing to predict, the NBA championship winner each year.  This year I say it is wide open, yet to be determined, and ask me again after the trade deadline.  MLE is Miami, but a well-coordinated lesser team could knock them off, especially if they remain injury-prone.

The evolution of parking in Manhattan

Matt Yglesias and Ryan Avent can smile:

The Department of City Planning recently completed its most ambitious study of parking in Manhattan in three decades. The report found that the way cars are used in the city has changed since the early 1980s, when the Clean Air Act’s stricter codes limited the number of new parking lots. Developers were no longer required to provide parking in new developments, and special permission was needed to build large garages.

When the rules went into effect, 85 percent of off-street parking was taken by commuters. Now, depending on the neighborhood, up to 70 percent of those spaces are used by residents.

Over the last three decades, the number of off-street parking spots in Manhattan has fallen by one-fifth — to 102,000 from 127,000, according to the city study.

In the last six years alone, according to data compiled by Property Shark, 92 parking lots or garages have been sold and redeveloped. From the Avenue of the Americas, where a garage fell for a hotel, the Eventi, with rental apartments on top; to Varick Street, site of a condo-to-be, the humble lot has seen better days.

The longer story is here, and of course Manhattan has done fine over this same period of time.  Ryan’s eBook is here, I believe Matt’s is due out soon, I look forward to reading it.  Here is my earlier column on minimum parking requirements.  Here is Matt on Donald Shoup.

Foreign Students

Good piece in the New York Times making three points about foreign students in U.S. universities 1) State budgets for education have been slashed, 2) foreign students are way up and because they are paying much higher tuition than in-state students they are supporting education for citizens, 3) selling education services is one way our trade deficit with China is balanced.

This is the University of Washington’s new math: 18 percent of its freshmen come from abroad, most from China. Each pays tuition of $28,059, about three times as much as students from Washington State. And that, according to the dean of admissions, is how low-income Washingtonians — more than a quarter of the class — get a free ride.

Not everyone is happy, however. Here is one (ironic?) complaint:

“Morally, I feel the university should accept in-state students first, then other American students, then international students,” said Farheen Siddiqui, a freshman from Renton, Wash., just south of Seattle.

The negotiations over refunding Greece

Here is one very effective understatement:

The two sides were “quite far apart” over projected cuts of 25 per cent in private sector wages, 35 per cent in supplementary pensions and the immediate closure of about 100 state-controlled organisations with thousands of job losses, a Greek official said.

Coase may yet kick in, but it looks pretty tough to me.  Here is a good post on what it means if there is no public lender haircut.

The cultures that is Italy

Responsible for one of the most stupid shipping accidents of all time, not to mention the death of thirty or so passengers, Schettino was nevertheless greeted in his home town of Meta di Sorrento (on the south side of the bay of Naples) by a crowd waving banners in his favor and complaining, priest included, that the man’s bad press was the result of a general prejudice against their community. “Every Italian,” Giacomo Leopardi dryly remarked in 1826 “is more or less equally honored and dishonored.”

Here is more, interesting throughout.

The West Rt. 50-Gallows feed

There are three lanes, with the left two lanes narrowing into one.  A slight bit further ahead, the traffic from Gallows Road merges into the right lane, map here.

Many people from the far left lane merge “unethically,” driving ahead as far as they can, and then asking to be let in at the near-front of the queue.  The traffic from Gallows Road, coming on the right, merges ethically, as it is a simple feed of two lanes nto one.  They have no choice as to when the merge is, although de facto the construction of the intersection puts many of them ahead of the Rt.50 drivers.

The left lane merge is slightly quicker than the right lane merge, in part because not everyone is an unethical merger.  Yet it is more irksome to drive in the left lane, because you feel, correctly, that people are taking advantage of you (unless you are an unethical merger yourself, which I am not).

In recent times, I have switched my choice to the right lane.

Why does Arnold Bread have forty different kinds of bread?

100% whole wheat, 12 Grain, 7 Grain, German Dark Wheat, Health Nut, Healthy Multi-grain, Honey Whole Wheat, Oatnut, Country Oat Bran, Country Wheat, Country White, Country Whole Grain White, Healthfull 10 Grain, Healthfull Flax and Fiber, Healthfull Hearty Wheat, Healthy Nutty Grain, Double Fiber, Double Protein, Grains & More Flax and fiber, Triple Health, Dutch Country 100% whole Wheat, Butter Split Top, Extra Fiber, Premium Potato, Premium White, Rye Everything, Rye and Pump, Pumpernickel, Rye Seedless, Melba Thin, Rye with Seeds, Soft Family 100% Whole Wheat, Soft Family Classic White, Soft Family Honey Wheat, Soft Family Whole Grain White, Brick Oven Whole Wheat, Brick Oven Premium White, Premium Italian, Stone Ground, Light 100% Whole Wheat.

Here is more, from William Gadea.  The hypothesis:

The motivator here isn’t making the customer happier, it’s the oft-neglected fourth ‘P’ of marketing: placement. Even if the supermarket carries only half the varieties that Arnold offers, all of a sudden they are hogging a big part of the bread aisle. Arnold is the bread that is most likely to be close to your hand.

For the pointer I thank William Gadea.

Toward a theory of praise

Rogoff’s real hero, however, was Bobby Fischer, the American chess champion of the 1970s. He remembers following the games from the famous Fischer-Spassky world chess championship in 1972, and being awed by Fischer’s play – “It was like seeing the hand of God at work; the originality, the simplicity.” He shakes his head in delight and amazement. Fischer even paid the teenaged Rogoff the compliment of analysing and praising one of his games in an article. But Rogoff did not let that go to his head. “I took that to mean that he knew I could never beat him. Because I knew he was hyper-competitive. I completely understood the message,” he chuckles.

Not sure if you can get through the FT link to the rest.  It is interesting throughout.

The Chinese fapioa, or reverse tip

In China a fapioa – the official receipt used for expense claims has a resale face value of 2 – 10% of face value – leaving one behind in a restaurant or taxi is the equivalent of giving a tip (in a culture where tipping is uncommon) and not requesting one allows the person or establishment to avoid ringing the exchange through a cash register. There are two primary practices around handing out fapioa: the first is that they are printed to the exact value; the second is that the seller takes an equivalent sum from book of fapioa that contains various denominations.

In many smaller establishments the seller is reluctant to hand over fapioa since in essence it becomes declared income and it is common to have to ask twice, especially as a foreigner. But in larger service industry chains where (some) tax is a given and employees feel less loyalty to the bottom line over-paying on fapioa (handing back receipts way in excess of the actual sums purchased) is like handing money back to the customer. The social norms dictate that the seller should round up – so if the the lowest denominations are 20 RMB (about 2.5 Euro) a customer could get 40 RMB of fapioa for a 25 RMB drink.

Here is the link, and for the pointer I thank Fred Smalkin.

Assorted links

1. Markets in everything bride price decomposition the culture that is Nigeria.

2. David Cronenberg interview.

3. How exactly do we know, from the photo, that she is on the political left rather than right?  Seriously.  Here is her blog and profile.  Here is her Twitter feed.  How do we know?  And that we know — should it make you less confident in your own political beliefs?  WWRHS?

4. Kling on Murray.

5. Man arrested for stealing a glacier.

6. Bitcoins for World of Warcraft Virtual Gold,.

The new jobs report

All good news, 243k up but lots more information in the numbers, try @JustinWolfers or @BetseyStevenson for details and interpretation.  The “big loser” here?: Old Keynesianism.  You really can get a recovery when the real shocks are moderately positive.  You will note, as we have been told many many times by many many sources, fiscal and monetary policy have not been extremely pro-active in recent times; in fact the stimulus has been trickling to a close.  The big winners, apart from the American public?: real business cycle theory.  It is part of any cyclical explanation, whether one likes it or not.

Another big loser is those liquidity trap theories which tell us that positive real shocks are bad for the economy because the AD curve has a perverse slope, etc., and that negative shocks might help spur recovery.  That theory is looking very weak, again.  I consider it the weakest economic theory that has any currency in the serious economics blogosphere.

Thomas Sargent on federal bailouts

In 1789, the political price for our federal constitution included a bailout of the 13 indebted states. But it was by refusing to bail out the states a second time in the 1840s that the United States preserved its federal system, with substantial fiscal independence for state governments. Facing a similar moment, Europe might learn from our experience.

…Appealing to the precedent set by the 1789 bailout, state creditors asked the federal government to bail out the states once again. After an enlightening debate, in the early 1840s Congress declined, so many states repudiated their debts.

In the aftermath of those repudiations, many states rewrote their constitutions to require year-by-year balanced budgets, something they had never done before. As noted, fiscal crises, like the one in Europe today, often produce political rearrangements—at best peaceful ones like these.

There is more here.  If that WSJ link doesn’t work for you, type “Thomas Sargent” into