SportsBusinessDaily has a series of short pieces on the state of the NFL as they go into the 2018-2019 season:
The NFL’s TV ratings are being monitored on Wall Street, with some financial analysts saying that another big ratings drop could affect the standing of some broadcast companies. “We continue to believe the NFL is the single biggest swing factor for media earnings and valuation,” read a research note released this morning from MoffettNathanson. “Any sign of continued NFL ratings weakness could pose a long-term risk for broadcasters who may be forced to bid up for rights.” The most interesting part of the report looks into the next round of rights negotiations, with the report suggesting that ESPN should drop its “MNF” package in order to pursue “SNF” instead. The report calls Disney’s current “MNF” package a “rotten deal with … a cost/rating point ratio that is 260% to 400% more expensive than any other package.” The report goes on to say, “One of the more interesting theories that we still think has a higher probability of playing out is if Disney instead targets the more valuable, but lower-priced Sunday Night Football package, currently at NBC. We believe Disney should reclaim the Sunday primetime package by paying a significant premium to the existing costs. Even if they pay $900 million more per year, it is a better economic outcome than keeping MNF” (John Ourand, Staff Writer).
I believe the NFL has managed to stagger along by arguing these ratings falls are short term and fixable, and are based on factors like “bad play” and negative media coverage around head injuries. In theory, by making rule changes and working on safety, the NFL should be able to turn around its bad public image.
The problem is that the main reason for the ratings collapse has nothing to do with “bad play.” The anti-US/anti-flag protests by rich NFL players claiming to be “oppressed” is the primary culprit behind the ratings fall, as indicated in polls taken on the subject. I speculate the NFL’s primary viewing demographic is conservative middle aged men, a group which tends to be patriotic. It is not a surprise that many of them feel insulted by the protests and are changing the channel.
The problem, as noted above, is that Wall Street is not dumb and has begun to realize the NFL has done lasting damage to itself by its virtue signalling and the problems may not be fixable.
A linked piece has this howler:
It’s significant that after two years, the league still seems unsure about what to say or how to publicly handle this controversy. The only thing everyone agrees on is that they’re tired of the problem.
“I don’t know how many times I’ve heard, ‘Why do we always have to deal with this?’” said one club executive. “You know, ‘Why doesn’t the NBA have any of these problems?’”
The league understands what they need to do to resolve the problem – they need to crack down on the players who are misbehaving and fire people, including even popular players, until the remaining players figure out they can’t ram political protests down their viewers’ throats.
The NBA quietly nipped this in the bud before it got started. While a few loudmouths like LeBron have attacked Trump, the NBA as a whole has not seen anti-American protests that alienate their viewers in the way the NFL has allowed by rolling over completely for the players.
The problem is the owners don’t want to crack down, because the elite circles they move in all revile Trump with a near-religious mania, and most of the owners are probably leftists who hate Trump too. Like many leftists, they cannot bear to give Trump any kind of “victory” by imposing basic standards of good behavior on the league.
The problem is that by allowing the protests to continue, they are helping Trump by enraging his voters and making them feel attacked. The NFL has allowed itself to be backed into a no win situation, and they have nobody to blame but themselves.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s support also continues plummeting:
CONTINUING DOWN THE WRONG PATH: This season marks NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s 13th year in office, and NBCSPORTS.com’s Peter King asked his Twitter followers last weekend whether they “approve or disapprove of Goodell’s performance in office.” Around 79% of the 28,113 who responded by Sunday night “said they disapprove of the job Goodell has done.” The owners who employ Goodell are “concerned that he’s so reviled, but they also know he takes so many bullets for them.” King: “I can’t imagine a scenario in which Goodell can turn around his image — and I don’t see much of an effort by the league to try.” For a league “so powerful and successful, this is a conundrum that the NFL cannot make go away” (NBCSPORTS.com, 9/3).
Despite this, Goodell’s contract was renewed last year in a rush to virtue signal and stick it to Trump by mostly leftist NFL owners. This was done partly because they didn’t bother to consider the consequences of their choice and partly because, due to the fact that they are billionaires, they will suffer no real harm if the NFL collapses.
With Goodell locked in until 2023, there is very little prospect for change anytime soon in the NFL.
This just in: first game ratings continue ratings in free-fall.