Once again, the NFL is trying to figure out why they’re hurting for cash. Attendance is down. Viewership is down. Money is simply not flowing like it used to. There are a lot of reasons being floated for this. Some are blaming the political PR sideshows that dominated the season. Jersey burning and kneeling bench warmers and superstars making YouTube videos to share their conversion stories. It was a long, strange year for the NFL. About the only thing that stayed status quo was the teams at the top.
The NFC sent its best out on the Field to face off against the dynasty of this generation. For three-quarters it looked like the Falcons were going to beat the Machine from New England, the Dirty Birds would vanquish the GOAT and the Hoodie. Then … nope. The Pats once again lifted the Lombardi Trophy in a game that many will regard as an “instant classic” Super Bowl game.
The game had all the elements, all the drama, and, this year, even the halftime show was a hit. But the NFL still came away looking back at a lackluster season. What was wrong with America’s Game?
When they got together to compare notes, one idea kept coming to the forefront. The games are too long. In the days when people had to watch commercials that wasn’t such a big deal. You just had to watch commercials. No other options. These days, though, people are DVRing games and starting them an hour into broadcast time, so they can fast-forward through all the commercials. Or, they’re getting bored and finding something else to do. Even close games and late game heroics – we’re looking at you Aaron Rodgers – have not been enough to keep fans watching.
Recently, league officials met with CBS to work on ways to shorten the air time of the games. Not only would that save the NFL some cash, it might bring people back to the couch to watch the games. One of the key drawbacks to Shorter Games – lost ad revenue, something neither the league nor the network is willing to consider. So, they’re going back to the drawing board. How could they keep the games going while continuing to cash in on ad revenue?
There are a lot of ideas, none of which have made it to the next level as of yet. One of the most obvious: copy the model used in European football (American soccer). Superimpose advertisements on the field and start slapping logos on team jerseys. Hey, it looks like the NBA may be doing it, so why not at least consider the benefits?
The field advertising might be tricky. Unlike soccer, the NFL already has a lot going on with the field. From first down lines to lines of scrimmage, there are a lot of computer generated graphics in games already. Plus, there’s a lot happening on the field, and another graphic or logo could be seen as an off-putting distraction.
But Shorter games are certainly something the fans would appreciate. They would get more of their weekend back, and it would fit into a world that is increasingly mobile and decreasingly apt to sit for six or seven hours on a Sunday.
Euguene Schneur is a real estate mogel and the co-founder of Omni New York.
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