Part 1: The NFL, A Victim of It’s Own Brilliance

Posted: September 24, 2010 in NFL

…so increasingly the NFL, more than any other sport has gradually become a much better watch at home then away. US Today had a very interesting story on NFL attendance. Citing that it would be down by about 3%, and it’s quite obvious as to why it’s down.

What basically had happened to the NFL is that the NFL is so good on television, they’ve become victim’s of their own brilliance, this happens all the time. Happens all the time in business, happens all the time in life. The NFL is a victim of itself. The NFL is similar to a great therapist. The great therapist solves your childhood issues, so then suddenly you don’t need the therapist “Doc, thanks for solving my baggage! Guess I won’t be needing you anymore”

I mean, to some degree, they’re a great doctor. They are so great, that they lose a client! Now, the NFL is not losing fans, they’re going home and watching the game, but think about this. Baseball on television, the replays are better, but it’s pretty much the same game just as it was 20 years ago. The NBA on television, better replays, still the same as it was 30 years ago. The NHL was never great on television, because you still can’t find the puck. Hence why Fox Sports a couple of years ago would highlight the puck in blue to show where the heck it was. College Football does not have the money nor the cameras, so it’s better than it was 30 years ago. But the NFL, if you watch a regular season game today, it’s significantly better than a Superbowl was 15 years ago.

I get the Red Zone channel, I got HDTV, and they’ve invented the 1st down markers on television with the graphics. By the way, the 1st down marker is the best innovation in history in sports television…ever! There are people now that go to games, that don’t know that much about football who ask “where is that 1st down marker?” They think that is part of the field, its unbelievable!

So the NFL is a victim of itself #1. That’s why the attendance is slightly going down, but unlike the MLB, where the attendance is going down and the television numbers are into the toilet. The NFL, the attendance is going down slightly, but the television numbers are roaring up. So they are not losing audiences, they are gaining audiences from the comfort of their own homes. But here’s the #2 issue with the NFL, and I think the NFL has got to be very careful about this.

The #1 issue, they are a victim of their own brilliance. And there is nothing you can do about that, its just the dynamics of the way things work out. Coke experienced it; businesses all over the world experience it. You come out with a good product and it seizes another product, that’s the way the cookie crumbles. But the real issue, the #2 issue is this. You’re not losing fans equally, your losing a certain type of fan. I’ll give you an example.

 I did one of my co-op terms over at MLSE. MLSE started to notice that they were losing the true hockey fans. But the problem is, that they weren’t losing them equally. You know what they were losing? You to ESPN, You to CNBC, You to Cable Television, You…the smart educated people, with good jobs (hopefully going to Waterloo pays off for you!) Losing you to digital access, cable news (with better programs). So MLSE saw themselves now stuck with this type of demographic. Old people, who are fascinated by the weather, and less educated people who can’t afford television.

That’s what MLSE’s audience has become. You, both men and women out there, you don’t watch local television. MLSE didn’t lose grandpa, MLSE didn’t lose grandma, they didn’t lose rural people per se. MLSE lost you! People who are well educated, bound to make good money, bright individuals…they lose you! And that’s what’s killing MLSE. They lost the wrong people!

That to me is what is hurting the NFL. They are not losing Joey Meatball, they are losing smarter fans, educated individuals, who make a little more money, can afford multiple flat screens and media rooms. Translation? Stadiums are getting full of more low brow, vulgar, aggressive people, who has got nothing to lose, and acts like a meatball at the game. Like, what’s happening in NFL stadiums is that your losing family guy, your losing guy not interested in getting hammered by 11am, your losing guy who prefers not to be arrested, your losing guy who doesn’t call his wife mother or his “ballin chain” And what you’re getting in NFL stadiums is an increasingly vulgar, low brow dude, and it’s happening fast!

So that is a problem the NFL faces. It’s going to keep going down and down. People with options in their life are leaving stadiums. Smart people left MLSE, smart people leaving the stadiums, family guy leaving the stadium, guy who can afford a media room and flat screen is leaving the stadium, and that is certainly a problem. So what is happening and Roger Goodell to his credit, he is a heck of a commissioner. Roger Goodell at the NFL meetings was the first guy to acknowledge this fact. They asked him about this and Roger Goodell said, and he told every NFL owner this he said “Our challenge is that we have got to make the stadium experience cleaner, we have to make it better, we have to make it less vulgar”

So To recap what I’ve argued thus far, #1 the NFL is a victim of its own brilliance, it happens all the time. But #2, stadiums are losing the wrong people. That is definitely an issue. Its career guy over job guy. Guy who goes with his kids, that guy is leaving. These stadiums, especially in Philly and New York, oh my god like the language is horrible.


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