What The NFL Could Learn From Major League Baseball

from the competition dept

We’ve been fairly impressed with the actions taken by Major League Baseball to take take advantage of the internet. It’s had a good run putting a lot of content online, in terms of live and archived games, along with premium tools to access stats. Meanwhile, other major sports leagues haven’t quite figured things out yet. The NFL, which doesn’t have nearly as much content to offer (due to fewer games each week) thinks it can justify having a whole cable TV channel devoted exclusively to itself. Problem is, not too many people seem to want a NFL channel, and it’s not offered as part of many cable TV packages. So, in a bid to get its network aired to more people, the league is threatening to hold back several games per week, and put them on its cable channel, hoping that the cable providers will then be pressured to carry the channel. It’s not clear whether this gambit will work, but even if it succeeds in pushing its channel to more households, it’s clearly taking the wrong approach. Whatever short-term gains there are in offering its own channel will be at the expense of the longer-term gains from opening up and making its games more available.


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Comments on “What The NFL Could Learn From Major League Baseball”

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24 Comments
Clearly? says:

I would tend to disagree with your thought that the NFL should open it up. Their stadiums are full, their fans are rabid, hell, if Arizona can fill a stadium, then how much more can they expect?

The content is in great demand and they should charge a premium. They really are not trying to stay in a walled garden, they just want the carriers (cable) to pay the price. If Direct TV were a bigger threat, cable would be forced to deal with the NFL. If Fios and Lightspeed really ramp up to make a difference and they get a NFL package, think that might change Cable’s mind?

AMP says:

Seems like a bad idea

As fan of the NFL, this move to put games on the NFL network kind of bothers me. Pay per view basically ruined the sport of boxing. Asking people to pay yet another fee on top of their cable bill, just to watch a game that they used to get with their basic cable subscription, seems like a bad idea to me. The NFL is a marketing giant. They are getting a premium price from advertisers. The more viewers they drive away by moving games to the NFL network, seems like they stand to lose some advertising $$.

AMP says:

Re: Re: Seems like a bad idea

To be certain, the lack of talent in the heavy weight division seems to be an issue. (This is just what I hear, I know nothing about boxing) But the most recent boxer that I know is Mike Tyson, and he has not been relevant in years. It seemed like prior to pay per view, everybody knew who the boxers were, who was in contention for what title etc. Now nobody know anything about boxing…i.e. make the product harder to consume and watch your brand recognition go down the toilet.

I think not says:

I too have to disagree that the NFL should learn from MLB. As you stated they are two entirely different animals. The very fact that baseball games are available every night of the week from April through September is what limits its ability to have its own channel. Real football junkies, even those with the NFL packages spend the rest of their week reviewing all the games on the NFL channel. I am not the nut a lot of fans are, but I love the Tuesday replay where games are replayed with all the dead time cut out. That alone makes the NFL channel unique and something for the Cable companies to add.

Anonymous Coward says:

NFL's latest ideas

NBA, NHL, and MLB are more similar to each other than any of them is to the NFL. Each of them has games on any given day (night). How interesting that the NFL seems to be moving to that model, with games now on Sunday, Monday, and Thursday, with the occasional game on another day. It’s clear that what the NFL is looking for is a national audience on multiple days of the week, but the reverse may happen. It’s entirely possible the viewing public may have too much of a good thing and lose interest altogether.

As to the NFL channel, it’s part of Comcast’s digital silver package, which I have. I didn’t get the package for the NFL channel, and to be honest I rarely watch it even though I’m an NFL fan. I get all the NFL I want on Sunday and Monday. If the NFL thinks a channel dedicated to their league 24/7 is the way to go, I think that remains to be seen.

Finally, I do think the NFL should look to MLB for some ideas on web content. Live video may not be in the cards, but there is a lot more on the MLB site than live video. The NFL should take notes.

Paco says:

Thursday Night Football

Last Thursday the NFL channel aired their first regular season game on their channel, the Bronco’s – Chief’s game. I live in the Denver area, and they played the game on the local Fox channel for everyone who didn’t have cable. This was also true for the Bronco’s MNF game earlier in the season.

I think that moving the games away from the networks and onto cable is a bad decision. They are also trying to pull some of the ratings from other shows on Thursday night, which happens to be the biggest night for network TV shows. People will end up watching less football becuse it is fighting against the other prime time shows.

Has anyone else noticed that MNF is not the big game that is used to be….the big game is now the Sunday Night game?

Ralph Kramden says:

$10 per houshold per month, subscriber or not

According to my cable provider, the reason NFL Network is not being offered by so many (almost all) cable providers is that the NFL wants $10 per cable household per month, whether the subscriber wants NFL Network or not. Are you willing to pay $10 a month “NFL Tax” to your cable company for nothing but letting someone else buy access to the NFL Network at an additional charge? Thought not.

This is doomed to failure, if not congressional hearings.

Dan says:

Re: $10 per houshold per month, subscriber or not

Ummmm, no. NFL Network is looking for .50-.75/month per household, which is up from the .25-.50 it had previously charged. Nowhere near $10/month. The dispute is not only over $$, but placement, IIRC. Some cable providers want to stick it in as part of their premium “sports tier,” but I believe NFL Network is holding firm that it should be part of a “base” subscriber package. I know at least in their battle with Time Warner they have a further leverage point in certain markets in that Adelphia Cable, which was recently bought out by TW, had the NFL Network, so customers who were used to having it suddenly don’t after the “seamless” transfer from Adelphia to TW.

Atlanta Fan says:

I think it would be a great move on the part of the NFL to move all of the games to the NFL channel. That would free up the airwaves for something else. Maybe football would actually go the way of Boxing. Who actually gives a damn about these overpaid children. I say that they should all have there salaries capped at $25K, no corporate sponserships, no merchandising, nothing. $25K, that’s all. See who sticks around to play. The players who play for the love of the sport, that’s who. All the other greedy bastards can just go away. I remember as a child that these men were role models. Now they don’t want anything to do with the fans unless it’s in their contract and it says that they have too.

RevMike (user link) says:

PPV - if done appropriately

I think most football fans would pay a reasonable PPV fee to see the games, provided that the product was better too.

A year or two ago I caught a ho-hum college game that was broadcast with only limited commercial breaks. The flow of the game was so much better.

In a typical NFL game, a team scores a touchdown, then there is a commercial break, then they kick the PAT, then another commercial break, then they kickoff, then another break, then the opposing team starts running plays. In 15-20 seconds of game clock there were three commercial breaks.

In contrast, the college game only took one break in that same time period. The flow of the game was just so much more pleasant. I’d pay $7 or $8 bucks a game to see that. I’d probably set up a fee structure where I get one team for $7, two teams for $10, and $15 per week for all the games.

NFL Fan says:

Yeah, lets watch cars drive in a circle for 2 hours with an occasional crash woohoo!!
If you really need to know why the NFL can do just about anything it wants right now, look at the tv ratings. Sunday Night Football gets higher ratings than the highest rated finals of the NBA, MLB, NHL, and MLS (don’t forget the WNBA ppft). Who else would spend tens of thousands of dollars for season tickets for only 16 games? NFL fans of course!

Gene Martin says:

My Viewpoint

1. I am a Washington Redskins fan; it is the only team I will sit down and watch for 2-3 hours
2. I will watch commercials when the ‘Skins are on; I won’t when they are not.
3. I live in Alabama, which mean if any of the following teams are on TV concurrently with the ‘Skins, I will be forced to watch Atlanta, Carolina, Tampa Bay, Miami, Tennessee, New Orleans, Jacksonville because I am closer to those cities than D.C.
4. 16 games, even for my beloved Redskins, are not enough to buy the cable package to see them each week
5. Conclusion – Except for 2-3 weeks in the season, I don’t watch games, I don’t sit in front of the television, no ads, and there goes the premise for ad revenue

How is this working for the NFL? Can you imagine the ad revenue if everyone got to watch any game they wanted? Charging the consumer directly for this access says two things: 1) the NFL would rather have revenue come from cable signups, which are easier to measure than Nielson ratings, and 2) the NFL is trying to get revenue from the smallest fan segment (misplaced fans) and not from the largest segment (people who live near an NFL site, which are placed in cities; large, dense population centers). You would think it would be easier for me to get an Arizona Cardinals game rather than the Falcons game, by that logic, because depriving me a chance to watch Atlanta on TV would ostensibly behoove me to go to the game.

End result – limited participation.

And as for the NFL Network, I don’t get it, but the most important thing to consider is: how does this make the networks feel? That the NFL thinks it can do better game coverage than they can? I read somewhere that Congress is already looking into the NFL Network’s basic premise with an eye toward antitrust issues. Seems like a poorly-considered idea to me. But then, I thought having non-regional games on TNT was a good idea, too.

Doug Karr (profile) says:

You may want to do some homework on this...

Check out http://www.patcoyle.net for details on the Indianapolis Colts new social network coming soon.

My apologies, but the last thing the NFL should do is to look to the MLB for any advice. It’s a scandalous league that in now way should represent team sports or individual leadership. The steroid scandal has destroyed any credibility the MLB ever had.

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