Hey FANS, are you ready for more football? How much do you know about the business end of your favorite entertainment addiction, the NFL? The revenue stream from media contracts, ticket sales, official NFL products and products, government stadium subsidies and syndication rights has reached enormous levels. The pie has grown from a sandlot clubhouse hobby to a billionaire jet set club. Now that fantasy football is in full swing, the beleaguered but rabid buff, sticks with their voyeurism as they act out their heroism celebration. Devotees of the noble sport seek the thrill of victory, but experience the agony of defeat in their pocketbook.
“NFL Football is the national sport. It more closely resembles the evolving social trends than any other indicator. Our society is a mirror of a game that once encompassed the essence of the human struggle against the elements of nature and competing warriors. The symbol of this era was the spent sacrifice of an average quarterback who achieved miracles. The famous photo of an exhausted Y.A Tittle captures the meaning of the game that each fan treasured in their heart and desired to know for themselves. The America of this period was not that long ago, but now seems to be from a different century.”
Now that the purity of a game is but a mere memory, the business is all about the Benjamins. Forbes notes in The Most Valuable NFL Teams, that the “NFL’s 32 teams are worth, on average, $1.17 billion, 5% more than last year. The Cleveland Browns, a lousy team for years in a midsize market, sold for almost $1 billion last year.”
The last agreement with the players association produced a new contract that “included a provision that gives players between 46 percent and 48 percent of league revenues. That’s down from the previous agreement’s 50-50 split.” Even the causal bystander must admit that the owners are wielding the hammer in free agency. If the marketing machine is geared to extract more revenue out of a hooked public, just what does the future hold?
The vision from NFL commissioner, Roger Goodell in another Forbes article, reports: How The National Football League Can Reach $25 Billion In Annual Revenues.
This year revenues for the National Football League will be somewhere just north of $9 billion, which means the league remains the most lucrative in the world.
He has stated that he wants to reach $25 billion in annual revenues for the league by the year 2027. Here’s how the NFL can get there:
1) The first—and most significant step—will be the renegotiation of the league’s television rights deals.
2) A new labor deal. The 2011 collective bargaining agreement ends in 2020.
3) The NFL has mastered the art of dividing up its rights. In other words when, say, CBS gets the TV rights deal, it does not get the live-streaming Internet rights.
4) The NFL is in initial discussions about forming its own mobile network.
5) The NFL’s fantasy game, at 3 million players, is still well behind ESPN and Yahoo, which have an estimated 14 million and 12 million players, respectively.
This ambitious plan is looking to up the ante. Merchandising will not boost an additional 16 billion out of cash strapped fanatics. Maybe selling NFL uniforms to the military or running a bookmaking network with an anti-trust exemption might get permanent seating in skyboxes for elitist politicians, but it does nothing to bring relief to the lowly stadium season ticketholder. Soon with enhanced and intrusive security measures, many fans will just be content to be tailgaters.
Relying upon the referees to umpire a fair playing field might bring back the perception of an honesty game, but doubts linger that the point spread is often more important than the final score. The Drunk Never Knows When To Leave The Bar, might offer a better option than having Jimmy Haslam or Eddie John DeBartolo Jr. in change of public relations.
“Now you say, what is wrong with the fox guarding the hen house? Surely, you are not saying that this compares to the NFL Players Association passing judgment on all new referees, writing the rule book and picking only from their own ranks every new candidate for the job?”
Looking to the players for that wholesome image has its own pitfalls. Review the NFL Arrests Database.
“These are arrests and citations involving NFL players since 2000 that were more serious than speeding tickets. U-T San Diego reviewed hundreds of news reports and public records in compiling it. The list cannot be considered comprehensive in part because some incidents may not have been reported and some public records proved to be elusive. Increased media coverage of incidents also probably accounts for more incidents listed in recent years.”
It seems that the poster boys are running a campaign to rename the NFL to the Aaron Hernandez league. Ownership flack, when Tim Tebow Says Football Comes After Faith and Family, illustrates that selling the NFL vision of Jerry Jones is the way to the $25 billion super bowl.
At some point, the public will become played out. Their satisfaction with the NFL experience will never approach the dignity of Y.A Tittle. An aficionado of the sport like Howard Cosell would tell it like it is. “Don’t you remember the $28 million dollar judgment against the NFLPA and its affiliated marketing company (of which $21 million was punitive) for breaching their fiduciary duty to retired players?”
Players, players almost sounds like playoffs, playoffs . . . playoffs !
Soon the virtual reality of a smart phone app will provide the excitement of a two-minute drill without the cost of admission. The NFL marketing machine owes more to NFL films than to the collective wisdom of the players or the owners. The business of the end zone dance rests upon the good will of the fans.
James Hall – August 21, 2013
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