In its first century, leaders like Bert Bell and Pete Rozelle stressed building its audience.
That is now so old fashioned. In today’s NFL, they will trade fewer viewers for more money from streaming.
First, they took a billion dollars a year from Amazon to show Thursday night games for 11 years. Even though Prime has 220 million subscribers, the games only averaged 9.58 million fans.
If that wasn’t bad enough, the league has announced it sold the rights to the Saturday night wildcard game to Peacock for about $110 million, according to the Wall Street Journal.
They ignored the fact Peacock only has about 20 million subscribers. Last year’s Saturday night playoff game between the Chargers and Jaguars drew 20 million viewers and that was a 20 percent drop from 2021 because neither team has a big fan base. The Chargers are in a big market, but Los Angeles has yet to show much interest in them since they moved from San Diego.
The Peacock game won’t get anywhere near 20 million viewers, but the NFL doesn’t seem to care because it pockets the money. Meanwhile, Peacock was started in 2020 and is expected to lose $3 billion this year.
To watch the game, fans have to pay $4.99 fee for the month and put up with all the problems of watching a streaming game, including the glitches in the picture and difficulty of trying to sign in. The only fans who can watch the game on network TV will be the ones in the two markets of the teams playing in the games.
And then there is the question of where the NFL is going with this. How many games will be streamed in the future? Will the Super Bowl one day be streamed or put on Pay Per View?
Will the NFL continue to have the Midas touch? Everything it touches turns into money, but at what cost?
In the universe of hundreds of channels it is difficult for them to draw the audiences it once did because viewers have more options. The NFL brags the Super Bowl drew a record audience, but the highest-rated game in terms of percentage of viewers was Super Bowl XVI between the 49ers and Bengals because cable was just getting started.
The NFL TV ratings have yet to return to 2015 levels and four of the six wild card games had a drop in audience from 2021.
But the NFL is no longer trying to grow its audience. Its business model is now trading fewer viewers for more money from streaming.