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|01-15-2011, 08:58 AM||#1|
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Wall Street Journal - Is This the Apotheosis of the NFL?
Interesting WSJ article asking whether the current NFL is about to jump the shark - excerpts and link below
Is This the Apotheosis of the NFL?
As the League Sees Staggering TV Ratings, Serious Questions Loom, From Safety to Labor to Technology
The 2010 NFL season is likely to be remembered as the zenith for a North American sports league, the climax of 50 years of work in which all five television networks that feature NFL games have shattered records for viewership.
But the spectacle of this weekend's four divisional playoff games also comes with a pinch of anxiety. The reality is that the league's runaway success isn't likely to be repeated, ever, especially if management and labor can't reach a new collective bargaining agreement and the owners lock out the players and cancel games next season....
"There's this social aspect where the NFL brings everyone together," said Frank Vuono, a former NFL executive who is now a consultant. "It's the 'Bonanza' or the 'I Love Lucy' of the modern age."...
This season, a rather straight-forward one on the field, will be remembered as the year the NFL crushed the rest of the American sporting landscape to smithereens. As every other sport and form of television programming struggles to retain eyeballs, NFL games are seeing improbable gains. On Fox, the size of the average audience was up 31% from 2005 and 18% since 2008.
On CBS, those numbers are 25% and 16%. On NBC, which has been broadcasting Sunday Night Football since 2006, seven of the 10 most-watched regular-season games have occurred this season, including a record 27.5 million for the season opener between the New Orleans Saints and the Minnesota Vikings. On ESPN, five of the network's top 10 most-viewed "Monday Night Football" games have occurred this season....
The video products have come so far in such a short time—and have become so helpful for the millions who follow the games to keep up with their fantasy football teams—that NFL owners have begun to worry about ticket sales.
Total paid attendance in the NFL was flat this season, compared with last year, but season ticket sales fell 5%, according to Mr. Aiello. There were 26 television blackouts (these are mandatory when a game is not sold out within 72 hours of kickoff) compared with 22 last season. That's the most since 2004, when there were 30.
Concerns about player safety have mounted, both from doctors and legislators, and the NFL recently named a Player Safety Advisory Panel, co-chaired by Ronnie Lott and John Madden, to review everything from the rules to the equipment.
Then there's the labor situation. If the owners and players fail to agree on a new economic structure for the sport after this season, the whole enterprise stands to lose billions of dollars from fans and sponsors.
"There's probably 20 reasons why the NFL was so successful this year," said Rick Gentile, the former executive producer of CBS Sports. "Of course, watch: next year they'll go have a lockout and they won't be able to build on any of it."
IMO the league has 3 big threats - (1) a lockout/strike that angers fans while they find something else to watch; (2) Goodell trying to turn the game into flag football; and (3) why lay out serious money for tickets to the game and go through the hassles of parking, drunks, etc., when you can watch it in HD at a sports bar or at home.
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