Brian Rolapp, NFL Chief Business and Media Officer, has indicated that while the next 5 years will serve as an “inflection point” and it’s possible the league could experience widespread changes if streaming technology were to advance significantly, traditional linear television broadcasters remain well positioned to retain NFL broadcast rights through the next broadcast cycle. Rolapp said the league’s “entire model is about reach” and that he’s “yet to see” a tech or streaming company deliver a “true broadcast-scale event”; a high-quality stream with 25 million+ simultaneous viewers. Until then, the league will continue to experiment with streaming and expand digital/mobile distribution with simulcast agreements.
Howie Long-Short: Yes, NFL TV viewership is down relative to historic performance, but it continues to perform well when compared to everything else on television. The league had 71 of the Top 100 rated shows on the tube in 2017. For comparison purposes, the league had just 22 of the Top 100 rated shows in 2007. Sure, the NFL’s TV audience is in decline, but the league has a stranglehold on its position as the best choice for advertisers looking to reach the masses.
While you shouldn’t expect a tech or streaming company to land exclusive broadcast rights during the next round of negotiations (particularly if the league is going to leave money on the table to reach the widest audience), the value of those rights should continue to rise and provide the league’s teams with a valuable source of supplemental revenue. To be clear, the league is open revamping its distribution strategy if streaming technology were to make significant advancements over the next several years; Rolapp said he’s well aware of the “staggering” amount of time users spend on Facebook, Amazon and YouTube.
Fan Marino: As mentioned, the league’s “new mobile streaming plan is about reaching more people.” For the first time, simulcasts of local market television broadcasts will be available for free on smartphones and tablets across all wireless carriers (used to be limited to just one carrier) and through NFL and Yahoo Sports’ mobile apps. While that approach is certain to result in increased mobile viewership this season, Sports TV Ratings expects television viewership to continue its decline by 5-10% YoY in 2018.
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