To Combat Dropping Ratings, The NFL Thinks Fining Its Teams For Sharing Video On Social Media Is The Answer
from the no-it-isn't dept
It’s been a time of remarkable progress of late when it comes to professional sports organizations being smart about how to pursue viewers in this here digital era. Major athletic institutions are finally opening up the door to wider streaming options, putting aside the doomsayers. Add to that that other leagues are starting to realize what a boon Major League Baseball’s Advanced Media product has been to viewership and attendance and it seemed like we were on the precipice of a golden age in digital sports media.
Leave it to the NFL to ensure that we take at least one step backwards. What once seemed like a never ending funnel of money and upward trending viewership, the NFL has undergone something of a ratings correction as of late. It seems that amidst the controversy over head injury, bad officiating, the contraction of one-day fantasy football, and what some think is a generally declining quality of the on-field product, less people are watching games, both in person and on television. This had to happen at some point, if for no other reason than because NFL ratings over the past 2 decades were completely boffo. But the NFL’s choice to combat this inevitable decline takes a page from the days we finally just got over.
We’ve obtained a memo that went out to all 32 teams reflecting that, starting Oct. 12, clubs are subject to a new fine schedule for exceeding the limits on video and any moving content. Those are particularly strict during the 60 minutes leading up to games, and through games, with clubs largely limited to re-posting from the NFL’s own accounts (with some allowance for approved content on Snapchat). The memo says that first-time offenders will be fined up to $25,000, a second offense will warrant a fine of up to $50,000, and a third offense will merit a fine of up to $100,000 and loss of rights to post league-controlled content.
This is flat out dumb for a number of reasons. To start, a top-down control over how teams choose to market their product breeds rigidity. Rules applied both to a market like New York and Green Bay are going to be flawed almost by definition, as those markets are completely different and the tactics needed to attract fans simply aren’t the same.
But the larger idea of blacking out or setting limits on social media video content as a way to increase viewership is both a misunderstanding of how such content is viewed and shared, as well as a misunderstanding as to its wider effects on audience numbers. Simply nobody is watching highlights of video on an NFL team’s social media account in lieu of watching the game live. That isn’t the point of those highlights. Rather, the point is to attract, through the sharing of the video, new viewers who perhaps weren’t initially interested in watching the game.
It’s what makes MLBAM so powerful. I’m not perusing Twitter to get my live game action, but I sure as hell will switch over to a game in progress, or one upcoming, should some video content give me a compelling reason, whether it’s a pitcher throwing a no-hitter, a batter one hit away from the cycle, or some on-field altercation that ratchets up the intensity level. I’m a baseball fan; I live for that stuff. And having a team try to lure me to their broadcast, which I can likewise access via the excellent MLB.tv service, is a brilliant piece of marketing.
Marketing that the NFL, normally smart in its business practices, has decided to forego. Television blackouts of old have become social media blackouts today, and for no good reason.