Category: Economics 10e: Ch 09

Setanta is a sports broadcaster that emerged from an Irish dance hall in West London in the 1990s. Since 2004 it has grown rapidly, acquiring major sporting rights and acting as something of a rival to Sky. However, Setanta has now gone into administration following the collapse of talks with a US investor, its failure to pay a number of sporting organisations and the loss of its English Premier League games. Having less than 60% of the annual subscribers needed, and competing against Sky, it is hardly surprising that this broadcaster has now exited the industry. But, what are the reasons behind this collapse? Marketing, advertising, pricing, the recession or dominance by its competitors? What will be the impact of this bankruptcy on its employees, the Pay TV market, sporting organisations and its customers?

Offer made for stake in Setanta BBC News (12/6/09)
Troubled sports channel stops broadcasting CBBC Newsround (24/6/09)
Setanta goes off air with loss of more than 200 jobs Guardian, James Robinson, Leigh Holmwood (23/6/09)
Blavatnik offers Setanta lifeline BBC News, Robert Peston (12/6/09)
Last-ditch effort to save Setanta BBC News (9/6/09)
Football’s minnows braced to take full force of Setanta collapse Guardian, Owen Gibson (24/6/09)
UFC: After Setanta divorce where now: Bravo, Viring, Channel 5 or Sky? Telegraph, Gareth Davies (23/6/09)
Setanta sports taken off air in Britain Times Online, Dan Sabbagh (23/6/09)

Questions

  1. How was Setanta able to expand so quickly? Is this part of the reason for its failure?
  2. Premium content, such as Premier League matches, is already dominated by BSkyB. What does the collapse of Setanta mean for the structure of the Pay TV market?
  3. What reasons could explain Setanta’s inability to attract sufficient subscribers? Is its collapse a consequence of the recession, or are there other factors? What are they?
  4. Who will lose out from Setanta’s bankruptcy? Think about all those connected with Setanta. What will happen to the Scottish Premier League, which has paid the SPL clubs out of its own pocket? Will it get this money back?
  5. Do you think there were any other options open in a bid to rescue Setanta? If Ofcom had stepped in to regulate the industry, would it have made a difference?

Many industries are struggling in the current climate and, in particular, car sales have been at an all time low. General Motors was the biggest car company in the world, but recently we have seen them becoming the biggest industrial bankruptcy, which will have consequences for many car manufacturers around the world. UK car sales were 25% lower in May 2009 than at the same time last year and Chrysler will sell most of their assets to Fiat when they form a strategic alliance in a bid to help them exit bankruptcy protection.

The troubles of the carmakers have passed up the production chain to automotive suppliers, component manufacturers and engineering firms, and down the chain to the dealerships at a time when consumer confidence has taken a knock. The following articles look at some of the recent developments in the car industry and consider their likely economic impact.

UK new car sales 25% lower in May BBC News (4/6/09)
Creditors cry foul at Chrysler precedent The Wall Street Journal, Ashby Jones, Mike Spector (13/6/09)
The decline and fall of General Motors The Economist (4/6/09)
GM pensioner’s fears for future BBC News (1/6/09)
Opel staff face wait for job news BBC News (2/6/09)
From biggest car maker to biggest bankruptcy BBC News (1/6/09)
GM sales executive lays out company’s direction Chicago Tribune, Bill Vidonic (14/6/09)
Chrysler and Fiat complete deal BBC News (10/6/09)
Fiat gambles on Chrysler turnaround Telegraph, Roland Gribben (1/6/09)
Obama taskforce faces Congress over car industry rescue Times Online, Christine Seib (10/6/09)
Has pledge of assistance revved up the car industry? EDP24, Paul Hill (10/6/09)

Questions

  1. What is a strategic alliance and how should it help Chrysler?
  2. What are some of the methods that governments have used to help stimulate the car industry? Consider their advantages and disadvantages.
  3. Think about the consequences beyond the car industry of the decline of General Motors. Who is likely to suffer? Will there be any winners?
  4. General Motors was established in 1908. How were they able to expand so quickly and what do you think are the main reasons for their current decline?
  5. The article in The Economist suggests that, despite the current problems in the car industry and the global recession, selling cars will never really be a problem. What do you think are the reasons for this?

Are businesses concerned solely with profits or sales, or do they take broader social objectives into account? Is ‘corporate social responsibility’ (CSR) a key part of their decision-making? In other words, do they care about the welfare of their employees, about being honest with shareholders and customers, about being energy efficient and non-polluting and about caring for local communities? In general, do they make a genuine attempt to be ethical? One view is that they should do this because, in the end, it’s profitable to do so. Another view is that they should be socially responsible because they have a duty to be so.

In the current economic climate, CSR is being tested. Is CSR something that should be inextricably part of everything a firm does? Or is it a luxury that can be dispensed with when times get tough? The first article below looks at this issue and comes to a fairly optimistic conclusion. The other articles look at approaches to CSR in various countries.

A stress test for good intentions The Economist (14/5/09)
The Future of CSR: 2009 report CSR Asia (05/09) (This may take a little while to load: try right clicking and saving it before opening)
CSR efforts score well in trusted brand poll BusinessMirror (Philippines) (29/5/09)
Minister Presents Corporate Responsibility Index Awards Australia.TO (28/5/09)
CSRwire Welcomes New Members to its Global Network of CSR News and Information CRSwire (27/5/09)
Straight Talk about Corporate Social Responsibility The Huffington Post (13/5/09)
Social Responsibility WA Today
See also the UK government’s CSR site Corporate Social Responsibility
and Business in the Community’s Corporate Responsibility Index

Questions

  1. Explain how self-interest can go some way to making companies more socially responsible.
  2. Why may the free market fail to provide the optimum level of CSR?
  3. To what extent does the current recession threaten CSR? Are there any ways in which it could encourage companies to be more socially responsible?

The first linked article below is from the American business magazine Forbes. It looks at the economics of football (‘soccer’) signings and, in particular, that of Robinho by Manchester City. In September 2008 the club was bought by an Abu Dhabi investment fund, controlled by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, for £210 million. But does the investment in new players make good business sense?

Also, what should determine whether a club sells a player? The third link below considers this issue. The link is to the Embedding Threshold Concepts (ETC) site at Staffordshire University. ETC was funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for England’s Fund for the Development of Teaching and Learning (FDTL). The site has a number of teaching and learning resources.

City of Dreams Forbes (8/4/09)
Man City beat Chelsea to Robinho BBC Sport (1/9/08)
Selling footballers: the economic viewpoint ETC reflective exercise

Questions

  1. Was it consistent with the goal of profit maximisation for Manchester City pay Real Madrid £32.5 million for Robinho? Was it consistent with the goal of profit maximisation for Real Madrid to sell him?
  2. If Real Madrid had decided to keep Robinho, how would you estimate the cost of doing so?
  3. What difficulties are there in developing Manchester City into a ‘global brand’?
  4. In what sense are the top Premier League clubs a ‘self-perpetuating oligopoly’?

Google is a classic example of the new ‘Internet economics’. The main service it provides – search – is completely free and yet it is an enornmously profitable company and growing fast. Much of what they provide in addition to their search service is also free: Google Docs, Google Maps and Google Scholar. So how do they do it? The first link below is an article considering this issue and the second link gives access to an archived version of In Business giving further detail. The programme is well worth listening to. A key part of the explanation for this new phenomenon relates to the low and falling costs of providing these internet services.

Buy none, get one free BBC News Online (8/1/09)
Free for all BBC News Online (8/1/09) In Business – programme archive

Questions

  1. Write a short paragraph explaining briefly the Google business model.
  2. Identify two fixed and two variable costs of running an internet search service.
  3. What are the marginal costs of Google providing additional internet searches?
  4. Discuss the relationship between costs, revenue and profit for a company like Google as demand for their servces grows.