Is rat­ings slide a long-term is­sue for NFL?

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - SPORTS - By Ed­die Pells

The slide in NFL rat­ings could be as much a trend as a blip.

The pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, the grow­ing move away from ca­ble, the in­crease in live stream­ing sports and com­pe­ti­tion from com­pelling base­ball have all been given as rea­sons for a dou­ble-digit de­cline in view­er­ship through the first five weeks.

All le­git­i­mate ex­pla­na­tions, ex­perts say. But one of the main sell­ing points of live sports to the net­works — they’re ap­point­ment view­ing that most peo­ple don’t like to record and watch later — could be erod­ing, as the fan base frag­ments, even for Amer­ica’s most pop­u­lar sport.

“It’s not to say that less than the ma­jor­ity of peo­ple are go­ing to sit down and watch the game at a cer­tain time,” said Den­nis Deninger, who teaches sports man­age­ment and sports me­dia cour­ses at Syra­cuse. “It’s just to say it’s re­treat­ing, and that re­treat puts into ques­tion the value that’s been at­tached to TV rights that were locked up for the long-term.”

Ac­cord­ing to Sports Me­dia Watch , view­er­ship for last week’s games was down 26 per­cent for Mon­day night, 15 per­cent for Sun­day night (against the sec­ond pres­i­den­tial de­bate) and 20 per­cent for Thurs­day night. Over­all, for the first four weeks of the sea­son, rat­ings across the league were down 11 per­cent.

The de­cline was con­cern­ing enough that league ex­ec­u­tives re­cently sent an in­ter­nal memo to the NFL me­dia com­mit­tee, com­par­ing this year’s slide to a lesser de­cline dur­ing the 2000 elec­tion cy­cle and con­ced­ing that, “While our part­ners, like us, would have liked to see higher rat­ings, they re­main con­fi­dent in the NFL and un­con­cerned about a long-term is­sue.”

The cur­rent TV con­tracts, worth be­tween $8.5 bil­lion to more than $15 bil­lion each, ex­pire in 2021 and 2022. What the net­works are will­ing to pay when it’s time to rene­go­ti­ate will be the best in­di­ca­tor of how big an im­pact Amer­ica’s chang­ing view­ing habits have had on the NFL, and whether pro foot­ball re­mains the na­tion’s undis­puted en­ter­tain­ment king.

But there’s still a lot of uncer­tainty over how new tech­nol­ogy will im­pact view­er­ship. Best ex­am­ple: Yes, you can live stream Thurs­day night games on Twit­ter, but what if your con­nec­tion is shaky? And how much bet­ter will that con­nec­tion get over the next five years?

“There will be some in­stances where the com­po­si­tion of (the me­dia deals) will change vastly, and oth­ers where they’ll con­tinue to en­gage with tra­di­tional part­ners,” said Adam Jones, the di­rec­tor of PwC Sports Ad­vi­sory Ser­vices. “All the deals may not yield the same pre­mi­ums. But we could see a shift in the ac­tual struc­tures of the deals, from tra­di­tional rights fees to a smaller base” with more dig­i­tal-based bonuses and in­cen­tives on the back end.

PwC does not talk about spe­cific sports leagues, though in a re­cent news­let­ter , it pre­dicted a mod­er­a­tion in growth of rights fees for North Amer­i­can sports over the next five years.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.