The NFL got themselves into the mess it’s in by being short-sighted. Mark Cuban says the league is headed for a meltdown due to “greed”. On the surface, I can see how he’d some to that conclusion. But I think the problems are more complicated than that.
It’s a combination of hubris and really gawdawful advisers. Most notably the NFL’s chief legal counsel from whom Tagliabue, previous NFL Commish, came (and went back to after his term expired) and who played a major role in selecting Goodell. These are the lawyers who convinced the NFL to make up phony medical studies to combat growing concerns about player injuries, most notably the long-term effects of head injuries. They’d done the very same thing before with the tobacco companies. They’re the ones who have convinced the NFL to take a hard line in most areas. Maybe as lawyers they think they’re doing their jobs. But lawyers shouldn’t be making business decisions, particularly in a business that is based entirely on customer perception and is completely a discretionary purchase.
The NFL’s future, like the future of every major league in every major sport is based on international. Where Baseball adopted a philosophy that what’s good for Baseball the Game is good for Major League Baseball, the NFL’s approach was it’s the NFL’s way or the highway. Europe and China said “Gas up the truck and get the hell out of here.” Now the NFL finds itself trying to come up with about $10 or $12 Billion a year that should have been and would quite possibly/maybe probably have been coming from abroad if they hadn’t acted like they were doing those countries a favor by shoving the league down their throats.
The NFL, to remain Major League needs that $25 Billion a year in Revenue they’ve got in their Business Plan. But they can’t come up with any way to get even halfway there let alone all the way. Without being Major League at the international level, the NFL can’t even maintain their current revenue stream without finding ways to make up likely losses by any means they can find. The Networks are probably done with them. They didn’t want to sign the current contracts. They sure won’t be signing any more like these…not without massive growth in viewership. Not when they can get the same audiences for programs that cost them less to produce per season than a single NFL Game costs them AND they own all of the rights to. They don’t love the NFL enough to give them ten times or more what it costs to get the same size audiences. Especially when there isn’t any international after-market.
What could be worse, by the time the next census comes around there will probably be more soccer fans among 12-24 year olds in the US and possibly more English Premier League Soccer Fans among young people than NFL Fans. That just about spells close the doors and put up the yellow tape because it leaves the NFL with another Player Contract down the line and no way to pay for it. Translation: The Showdown they avoided last time only a whole lot worse.
It’s a huge mess but one largely of the league’s own making. You cannot alienate your own customers any time and expect things to turn out well. But at a time when the core base is so desperately needed for the league to even have any shot at being around 10 or 12 years from now is just pure insanity.