Well, well, well….would you looky here! How time flies! It’s been a year since the NFL protests started and now the networks are sweating. Profits have dropped. Ticket sales are down. Stands are empty. Fans are boycotting the NFL because of the NFL anthem protests.
Ratings are continuing to crater for the NFL because of ‘Kneel Gate’. Now, one genius analyst is advising ESPN that it would be good business sense to not broadcast NFL games and forego the $15.2 billion that it makes them in doing so. Wow! Someone is in sore need of a math lesson here. The Hollywood Reporter’s James Andrew Miller thinks the solution is to dump football instead of dumping players who disrespect the National Anthem. That’s insane.
But say that ESPN did dump football… it would be the end not only for ESPN, but the NFL. If they are into suicide, by all means have at it boys. You won’t see Americans shedding a tear over it.
Baseball is stomping the hell out of football in ratings this year. The World Series ratings pulled more viewers than the NFL’s season games for a second year in a row. Telling. And MLB only has one player that kneels. That jerk is with the Oakland A’s and was just suspended for six games for pulling a gun on a female food deliverer. Classy.
This may have been more than a suggestion by the way. Miller points out that ESPN may have already quietly set up the move to dump the NFL by removing from its affiliate agreements a former requirement that it retain NFL broadcast rights in order to keep its high subscriber fees intact. Yes, ESPN is just that stupid. If ESPN dumps the NFL, cue the shock for affiliates who will suddenly lose lucrative NFL broadcast rights. Then ESPN will try to recoup losses by jacking up fees.
“This means the network would not face automatic decreases in that vital artery of its dual revenue stream,” Miller says of the new provision and how it might save the network if it dumps the NFL. “Sure, distributors would be aghast, demanding to negotiate lower fees probably immediately, but the point is, there would be negotiations, enabling ESPN to do everything it could to keep those numbers as high as possible.” What Miller doesn’t get is that a number of those distributors will walk over this and not come back. ESPN over values themselves greatly here.
The NFL is now looking towards the Big Three TV networks, (ABC, CBS, and NBC) for help. Disney owns ESPN and may push them into dumping the NFL because of a dearth of profits. In August it was reported that ESPN’s hemorrhaging of subscribers and advertisers added to Disney’s financial woes as the cable network’s profits fell another $1.46 billion. ESPN laughingly believes that if they dump the NFL, they will get an influx of investor capital. Not going to happen.
In summary here’s why Monday Night Football on ESPN could end as soon as the television rights deal expires in 2021.
Cable contract language: According to Miller, the contract between ESPN and cable providers no longer guarantees NFL games as part of the deal. That’s new and can change everything about how the network operates in negotiations.
Sunday Night Football: The best and most significant games each week take place on Sunday night, not Monday evening. While NBC’s Game of the Week has taken over the top prime-time billing for years, ESPN didn’t believe the gap would be so big and thought it would be closer to the previous package of marquee matchups.
Leverage: As Miller details, ESPN pays a disproportionately higher fee than other networks for NFL games. The reason: The need for rights to highlights that are used across its platforms. In exchange for one game per week, ESPN is paying heavily for highlights. But as Miller notes, the idea of the NFL simply freezing out ESPN and giving the cable giant no ability to promote its game is hard to imagine.
Competition: With sites like Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo and Amazon diving into the NFL broadcast rights game, competition could be higher. ESPN could back out and let another entity overspend.
Savings: The $2 billion (or so) ESPN pays for Monday Night Football could be repurposed in a different way. For a struggling company, that could change its fate.
With a 7.2 in metered market results, last night’s MNF was down 9% from last week’s Philadelphia Eagles’ 34-24 triumph over the Washington Redskins. Last night’s Chiefs vs. Broncos match-up is very close to the previous MNF season low of the October 9 Minnesota Vikings and Chicago Bears games.
Football was already hurting, then came the political activism. The answer for ESPN AND the NFL is not less football. It’s less political correctness and politics on the gridiron. But evidently, Disney/ESPN are just too liberal and far too stupid to get it.