Can't say I agree with his thoughts, they don't seem grounded in reality at all. In my opinion:So Lets Talk NFL Football. Since my comments about the NFL imploding in TEN YEARS seem to have caught everyone's attention.
First of all, why comment on the NFL ? Because I pay attention to all of the entertainment industry. I can learn from what happens in the industries I follow and when I comment on something, it invariably generates feedback. A lot of it. All of which I learn from. So expect me to comment on this and much for many years to come.
So why do I think the NFL will implode in 10 years ?
1. I wouldn't want my son playing football, would you ? I'm sure helmet technology will improve over the next 10 years, but why risk it ? There are plenty of sports to play. Plenty of ways to get exercise and if my son decided to do anything outside of sports and never pick up any ball of any kind, I'm fine with that. I can think of 1k things I would prefer him to get excited about doing.
As far as watching, I good with that.
I don't think I'm alone. If we start to see a decline of popularity at the high school and then college level because kids choose other sports, it will hurt the interest in watching the NFL
2. Player Behavior. The NBA learned this lesson. Fans don't like to see players acting the fool. While fans may forgive players over time, advertisers have long memories.
It is hard to ask players to be warriors on the field and perfect citizens off. Across a population of more than 1500 players under the age of 30, you can bet that they will have continuing issues. With the unquenchable thirst the online and media world have for HEADLINE PORN, and the ever growing availability of pictures of those mistakes appearing online, it is not inconceivable that over the next ten years something could impact the perception of the game enough to impact attendance and viewership.
3. Their TV strategy today is perfect. Nothing wrong with expanding their Thursday night broadcasts. It is a great idea.
That said, if they continue this trend of adding games on more nights ( i have been told they are looking at Saturday Nights as well) and this was the point I was making to ESPN yesterday, they risk over-saturation, a decline in interest by current, and non NFL fans feeling imposed upon because of the relative popularity of the NFL.
Some have asked, "if you can supply programming that has such huge demand on more nights , why wouldn't you ? " The answer is simple. No one wants to do the same thing every night. No matter what it is.
Sunday audiences for the NFL are big. Huge. Monday night audiences are smaller than Sunday. And Thursday are smaller than Monday. Sundays get 21.Xmm viewers on NBC/Fox, 18mm on CBS. Monday Nights get 13.7mm viewers and Thursdays get 7.1mm viewers. No question that Thursday night viewership will be much higher on CBS. Which is good for the NFL. But as you can see, there is not the same level of interest in the NFL carrying over from Sunday night to other nights of the week.
Can the NFL add more nights ? Sure they can. Will they draw more viewers than most TV shows can on the nights they add ? Sure they will. But is there a point of diminishing returns ? No question about it.
As I said, Pigs get fat, Hogs get slaughtered (don't know who said this originally).
How many days of NFL football are too many ? I think they get one more night. Probably a Saturday. Simply because Saturday is a waste land on TV right now. So an NFL game on the NFL Network or broadcast TV would probably work relative to other options available to TV Networks or the NFL Network. After that, they go backwards.
After that the backlash starts. Will they take away from High School Football on Fridays ? What would the general consensus be if NFL football dominated the ratings Thursday through Monday with only Tues and Wed as days off ?
What will the law of unintended consequences be when the NFL is on 5 days a week. Will we see a "Who Wants to be A Millionaire " affect ?
Only time will tell. But while over playing their TV hand is a risk for the NFL, they are smart and may not even take that direction. My comments to ESPN were based on speculation in the event they do. We will see.
4. Fantasy Football. TV saturation is not the NFL's biggest risk. What is their biggest risk ? Fantasy Football. Yep Fantasy Football.
When I broached the topic of the NFL being too aggressive and possibly devolving from "piggy territory" to "Hoggy Territory", the recurring response was that Fantasy Football is the difference. That Fantasy Football drives interest in the NFL.
Is that true ? What does everyone out there think ?
How much is the NFL worth in aggregate ? At least an average of $1 billion dollars per team ? And with the whole probably being worth more than the sum of the parts, the NFL if it was a public entity with all the teams in a single holding company, traded on the stock market, would be worth what ? Half of Facebook ? 3X+ Twitter or about $100 billion dollars ?
Could a $100 billion dollar venture really be dependent on how many people sign up for leagues to get points for plays and bragging rights with their friends ? If the answer is yes, that is a problem for the NFL and to a lesser extent all pro sports.
Does anyone believe that in 10 years Facebook will be the dominant social network ? It might be. What about Twitter ? Will it be a player ? Will Google dominate ? How will they dominate ?
We all know from history that very few tech based businesses live on as they currently are forever. And 10 years is forever. And Fantasy Football at its base is a tech based form of entertainment.
I'm not saying there haven't been quite a few online entertainment franchises that have been able to thrive over 10 plus years. There are more than a few.
What I do know is that every kid and their brother is looking for ways to create games or new forms of entertainment that pull people's attention away from fantasy football.
Do you bet on the NFL and Fantasy Football or do you bet on the entrepreneurial field ?
Could there possibly be a new technology or new form of entertainment that impacts the popularity of fantasy sports and has a big impact on not just the NFL, but all pro sports at some point in the next 10 years ?
I bet yes.
5. The risk of TV changing. TV is changing. Not near as much as people think. TV subscriptions started climbing again this past quarter as Cable and Satellite distributors greatly improved their user interfaces , VOD, internet streaming and discovery. But could it change ? Yes it could. Could we see more streaming and less traditional delivery ? Maybe. Will that have an impact on the NFL which is one of the few programs that has so many viewers of a live program that they could be seriously and negatively impacted if streaming became the expectation for sports and tv programming ? Yes. If the NFL needed to stream its games over the public internet in a net neutrality world, thats a problem for the NFL.
And if mobile consumption of the internet became dominant it could be even a bigger problem. Not just because of the technical nature of streaming mobile, but because i think there is a smaller audience of people who would want to watch the NFL on a mobile device.
The NFL, because of its audience sizes, more than any other pro sport, needs traditional tv to stay strong.
Will it. My guess is yes. But there are many who disagree with me.
So the conclusion ?
It's the same thing I tell my businesses and would tell every business. You shouldn't try to get every last second of a person's attention or every last penny that you can squeeze from them.
There is a big difference between optimizing the relationship you have with your customers and maximizing short term revenue. Building customers for life is about building relationships and anticipating customer wants and needs.
Customers/Fans/Advertisers know when they are being pushed. They know when they are being squeezed. It always ends up costing the business in the end.
And technology effects every business. You have to anticipate changes and all the possible points of change they will create in your business. I have talked about a few things the NFL will have to address over the next 10 years. If they don't get piggy, they should be ok. If not, they will implode.
Pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered
a) I'm not sure that a decline in the no. of youth/grass roots players will have an effect on the no. of people watching. I'm sure the NFL fanbase as of right now is largely comprised of people who have not really played the game, maybe some high school ball but that is it. Moreover people will always be able to access the sport without risking life and limb by playing touch/flag football.
b) As far as the sport expanding its broadcasts to days other than Sunday (Thursday night games in particular) its weird that he as an NBA owner would fault that given that the NBA plays games pretty much every night from Halloween through the middle of June. I don't see the NFL ever getting to a saturation point so long as the season is only 16 games long and the offseason lasts 6 months. Demand will always outstrip supply, people are still going to be left wanting more.
c) Lastly, I'm not sure why he thinks Fantasy Football will become less popular and I'm not sure that he gives a compelling reason beyond "its a fad that will eventually become old and die out".