The popular claim that Americans spend more on pornography than all
professional sports combined seems to mostly derive from a 2001
article in the New York Times Magazine:
"Take even the low-end $10 billion estimate (from a 1998 study by
Forrester Research in Cambridge, Mass.), and pornography is a bigger
business than professional football, basketball and baseball put
"Naked Capitalists: There's No Business Like Porn Business"
By FRANK RICH, New York Times Magazine, May 20, 2001
(free viewing with registration)
Some analysts' estimates are similar to those mentioned in the New York Times.
Dennis McAlpine, an investment analyst formerly of the investment
banking and brokerage firm of Auerbach, Pollak and Richardson, and
currently of McAlpine & Associates, seems to be one of the most widely
quoted analysts of the pornography industry.
McAlpine was quoted in a CNBC report earlier this month that described
the porn industry as being worth $12 billion.
McAlpine claims that the porn industry is quite large but that its
exact size is unknown. He did an extensive interview on the porn
industry for a PBS special on the porn industry.
Here are some of his statements:
"You can get estimates of a range from a billion dollars to $10
billion; nobody really knows. It's large. There's a lot of it that's
almost invisible. "
"It's certainly more than a billion. Is it $14 billion? I think it
would be hard-pressed for anybody to disprove that it was $14 billion.
On the other hand, I wouldn't want to have to try and prove it was $14
source: PBS Frontline : American Porn
On the other hand, in 2001, Forbes.com challenged the New York Times
article mentioned above, as well as the $10 billion plus estimates
that many have citedc. Forbes looked closely at the data and came to
different conclusions. Forbes estimated that the U.S. porn business
was worth approximately $2.6 billion to $3.9 billion.
See: "How Big Is Porn?" Dan Ackman, 05.25.01, Forbes.com
Forbes also asserted that "adult" video revenues were greatly exaggerated:
"Does the adult video market have $4 billion in sales? Not even half that."
Nevertheless, even if you accept the claims that Americans spend $10
billion or $12 billion or $14 billion, does that spending exceed the
spending on all sports combined?
In 1999, Paul Kagan Associates ranked the top five sports by revenue
1. NFL $ 4.119 billion
2. Major League Baseball $ 2.633 billion
3. NBA $ 2.656 billion
4. National Hockey League $ 1.528 billion
5. NASCAR $ 1.398 billion
Source: Paul Kagan Associates, cited on the web page Debbi's Earnhardt
site and Racing Resources:
These 1999 figures for just five sports total to over $12 billion.
That doesn't even include professional golf, tennis, horse racing,
More recent data on sports spending is available on page 33 of this
report from Price Waterhouse Cooper:
(This document is in PDF format, so the Adobe Acrobat Reader is
required. If you don't have that, visit:
According to the Price Waterhouse Cooper report, U.S. consumer
spending on sports in 2001 was $14.6 billion. Forecasted spending on
sports for 2004 was $17.8 billion.
Thus, even if you accept that Americans' pornography spending is as
high as some claim it to be, the idea that porn spending exceeds
spending on all professional sports combined seems pretty dubious.
The facts just aren't there.
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I hope this helps.