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The NFL: TV’s Most Valuable Property

The NFL: TV's Most Valuable Property

The shift in content delivery sweeping through the media is sure to hit the sports industry. And when it does, the National Football League will be the most desirable property of all by such companies as Google, Yahoo, Netflix and the other new-media players.

The NFL is listening because it wants nothing more than to stretch the bidding for for its content to these new participants. For decades, the NFL broadcasts have been the domain of CBS, NBC, Fox and ABC/ESPN. At one time it bordered on radical to have NBC carrying a Sunday night game of the week. 

In 1970, when ABC launched Monday Night Football, it seemed unthinkable to have the nation’s new national pastime shown in prime time during the week. But when the ratings soared and the money flowed from Madison Avenue, the marriage of the NFL and television solidified.

This year, projections call for the NFL’s revenue to reach $9 billion. Commissioner Roger Goodell wants the figure to expand to an astronomical $25 billion by 2027. Is it unreasonable? Of course. Don’t bet against him, though.…

Google has held preliminary negotiations with Goodell and his representatives to see how the company can join the NFL’s party. Yahoo can’t be far behind. And now that Netflix has demonstrated that it can invade Hollywood and show such original hit series as House of Cards and Orange Is the New Black, anything seems possible for Reed Hastings’ ambitious company.

Football is a natural fit for television for many reasons. The game’s trademark bursts of violence is perfect for the short attention span of the typical viewer, who can run to the bathroom or the kitchen to grab a beer during the breaks in the action. 

Plus, the game fits perfectly into a TV screen. As television sets get bigger and more sophisticated, one of the selling points will be how the sport of football looks on a TV set. When I last buy a big-screen TV, the Best Buy salesman’s first question was whether I liked to watch football games on TV.

NFL owners, Goodell’s bosses, care about one thing only: increasing revenues (and therefore, boosting the values of their franchises). The stadiums are usually filled to capacity. In fact, in many NFL cities, there is a sizable waiting list for tickets. The Super Bowl is virtually assured annually of being the most-watched TV show of the year. TV advertising is alive and well.

But the greed of the owners knows no bounds. They want to schedule still more regular-season and playoff games, despite the frequency of players suffering serious head injuries (not to mention garden variety knee, shoulder and other incidents). The last frontier is how the games are delivered on TV in the years to come.

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