After Peacock deal, does the NFL’s greed know any bounds?

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.

Jackson gets the big money — and a big target on his back

There was a time back in the day when NFL player salaries were not a big issue.

Pro football wasn’t a billion-dollar business even in the 1970s and players didn’t have agents, didn’t know what other players made and even the teams didn’t know what other teams paid. As late as the 1970s some undrafted rookies didn’t make $20,000 a year.

Finally in that decade, the NFLPA negotiated a deal with the owners for them to provide the first salary surveys for the players. Although no names were mentioned, the list included the high and low salary for each position each year with a median and average salary.

The startling figure was that O.J. Simpson was making $733,000 a year at a time when the second highest paid player, Archie Manning, was making in the $400,000 range.

Considering the fact that what O.J. made was close to double what the second highest paid player made, it may be the best contract ever. One owner told me that when reports came out of Buffalo, that O.J. got $2.1 million over three years, he thought the figures were hyped and not true.

The salary survey showed the figures were accurate.

Meanwhile, everything has changed now. NFL salaries are virtually a matter of public record. Almost all players have agents and they know the numbers for all the other players.

That is why it was quite surprising that Lamar Jackson decided not to hire an agent and negotiated with the Ravens himself.

The negotiations dragged for over a year without him getting a new deal. Jackson got a lot of flak for not having an agent. It didn’t help his cause that he was injured the last two years, doesn’t have a good playoff record and reports are that he wanted a fully guaranteed deal like the $230 million deal that Deshaun Watson got from Cleveland.

The owners were adamant to not let the Watson fully guaranteed deal set a precedent. It may be collusion but the NFL tends to get away with holding the line.

In the end, Jackson didn’t get a fully guaranteed deal, but he got so much money — $260 million for five years and $185 million guaranteed — that he couldn’t turn it down. At $52 million average a year, it is the best deal ever.

Granted, it will be topped soon, but Jackson got the last laugh. He got a great deal and won’t pay agent fees of several million dollars.. It could be argued that an agent might have gotten the deal earlier, but Jackson now has generational wealth.

Now the question is whether Jackson can take the Ravens deep into the playoffs or even to the Super Bowl. And since the entire league know the deal he got, it will be a target for agents representing star quarterbacks in the pipeline.

But with big money comes big expectations. We’ll see if he can live up to them.