A recent Ad Age article (1/8/16) by Anthony Crupi asks the question± of how could it get any better for the NFL? It is on top of every pile and “pile up”. The author in essence wants his reading audience to accept the fact that the NFL today is as good as it gets. This Scope addresses this perfectly strung and inflated pigskin (called the NFL) as we see and feel a # of cross currents and headwinds coming its way.
Real time TV audiences are getting smaller, streaming is progressively increasing and ad rates, generally speaking, continue to plummet, so how far can the NFL really go? While many analysts talk about this sport or its presentation as though it had no real ceiling, there are a number of floor issues that could ground Roger Goodell’s league. Such issues as DelflateGate, domestic abuse and NFL Europe’s failure to really become the next great import a “Made in the USA” blockbuster. Additionally, there is the increasing possibility of Americans watching the game on their mobiles, the growing concern of parents and players with “Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy” (CTE) and a US population that is increasingly Hispanic. As we approach SB 50 we must ask if the NFL is truly a league w/o peers, w/o a ceiling? Will the next 25 yrs bring extinction/annihilation or even more distinction and much more collaboration? No matter what our answers, the SB is the zenith of the sports entertainment world even as its critics point to the NFL’s own self destruction. Can the game stay w/i the white lines of respectability as advertising for the big game has grown and increased in value over 125 times since SBI? It was $40 G for 30 sec in 1967 and is now $5 M today. If a 1st class stamp (5¢ in 1967) had grown at the same rate (125 times) it would now cost $6.27 vs. its current 49¢ price tag. We now discuss each of the suggested relevant hurdles standing in the way of the NFL’s hoped for continued meteoric growth.
- Concussions & CTE– How ironic is it that Americans favorite pastime (watching football) would be met with a much ballyhooed movie during the holiday season call Concussion. The movie itself with Will Smith has been viewed as a 123 min docudrama perhaps better suited as a made for TV The movie’s $17.4 M 2015 box office (opened 12/25/15) is about the size of GB QB Aaron Rodger’s new contract (“Mr. Rodger’s Neighborhood” is for 5yrs, $120 M or $22 M annually. On 1/3/16, Concussion hits $22 M.)
- While Tom Brady has seemed to have won the trial held in the court of public opinion, Belichick and Mr. Wonderful been on the grill a bit regarding their so, so Deflategate denials.
- Former CHI Bear Super Bowl champ QB Jim McMahon and HOF LB Junior Seau, as well as many other NFL players have drawn serious attention to CTE. So much so that former NFL players as parents are starting to strongly question the advocacy of their sons playing the game.
- As for NFL Europe, let’s face it, it is a joke. True, that the NFL sends some of its players to play games in London and there is all that chatter and clatter about a London franchise. Good luck to the NFL. Will a SB ever be played in Europe? PLEASE! B/C of the time zone diffs can there ever be a real European connection? At best the NFL’s European TV audience is casual and occasional. (In 2013 the NFL said that 8 M watched some NFL football. C’mon what kind of real braggadocio is that? Are these the #s that are needed to build a franchise?)
- ESPN (the watermark of sports cable network) and the NFL are in serious back & forth about the NFL’s rising production costs, rights and fees. Those extraordinary NFL rights cost $15.2 B. WOW! These rights therefore, beg the question regarding “at what point will the NFL become too, too, too expensive for ESPN or for anybody?
- With 17%-18% of the US population being Hispanics (and mostly young Hispanics) it becomes very important for the NFL to connect to this population. To the NFL’s credit it has telecast SB 48 & SB 49 in Spanish and will telecast SB 50 in Spanish as well. The NFL MUST continue to make every effort to connect with this audience whose background with “fútbol” is as “soccer”.
- NFL streaming issues – The NFL overprices itself in every possible situation. It has recently encountered another “too big for its britches” situation. In Oct 2015 Yahoo pd $20 M to stream “Jags vs Bills” playing in London at 9 AM EST. Yahoo promised 5 M US streams to advertisers and wanted $200 Gs for 30 sec ads but had to cut this rate by 75%. OUCH! This game was not a very effective seller of the NFL. GEE WHIZ! The time was crummy and the game itself was worse than the time. Let’s face it, who the heck wanted to watch Jacksonville and Buffalo outside a few of the players’ mothers, wives and other friends and families (who live in those metros). Some viewers complained about poor quality of the stream. If the game was streamed from an Apple anything, (ipad, iphone, etc) all was well. But for other viewers NOT SO GOOD. For Yahoo and the NFL it was a catastrophe b/c of the many fans who wanted to watch it from their laptops.
- “You can bet on it”- The SB is the zenith, the absolute pinnacle of professional football betting. There is no single game that draws the gambling dollars (legally and illegally) better than the SB. In many ways it’s a toxic potion. Gambling has destroyed many people and athletes including the image and careers of the Chicago Black Sox and Pete Rose. Pro football betting is so prominent that Disney’s child ESPN has a weekly contribution on its SportsCenter discussing NFL
- SB 2014 produced a record domestic football wagering of $119 M which was an amazing 3% greater than in 2013. WOW!
- Prop bets are popular with casual betters who want more excitement during the annual SB These bettors wager on the length of the national anthem, on the color of the 1/2time performer’s hair, who is going to score the 1st TD etc, etc, etc.
- As far as illegal betting goes. In 2015, it rose to $3.8 B in late January, or 38 times the amount which was legally wagered. ($3.8 B is the equivalent to the GDP of the Virgin Is of $3.792 B) Almost ¼ of the GDPs of the world are less than $3.8 B. WOW!
- Lastly, we want to introduce the newest problem child on the block, Fantasy Football. The dramatic increase of paid fantasy football leagues in the midst of the NFL season has created a booming, robust industry valued at over $18.6 B (go ahead and buy the DLS Cowboys, WSH Redskins, NY Giants, CHI Bears, GB Packers and NE Patriots with that ca$h). Websites such as com and FanDuel.com have continually managed to skirt laws regarding online gambling in most states to emerge with a market demographic committed to pumping money into their coffers every Sunday. This massive influx of revenues has allowed these sites to advertise with much greater frequency. Fantasy Football has grown so quickly and gotten so big that DraftKings.com is sponsoring a segment on ESPN’s SportsCenter of the best fantasy players to start and to sit. How convenient!