The NFL brings in more money than any other sports league in the world. That’s not a surprise to most people. Football contracts, ticket prices and viewer ratings are at an all time high. Things like fantasy football have grown into its very own subculture. It even became the main theme the the television series “The League.”
NFL stars are in more television commercials than ever. They’re guest starring on television shows like Saturday Night Live. NFL stories are inspiring Hollywood blockbusters like “The Blind Side” and "Draft Day." It’s permeating into every area of our culture and society. It only makes sense that the NFL is making a lot of money with all of this.
Roger Goodell, the NFL commissioner, doesn't seem to be content with simply being the best. There’s nothing wrong with that. If the top person in an organization gets comfortable, then you can bet that organization is going to stop growing. Goodell doesn't want stagnation. His goal is for the NFL to generate $25 billion in revenue in a single year by 2027.
The NFL no longer wants to compete as a business against other sports franchises. It’s looking at competing with other multibillion dollar corporations. Roger Goodell is not only running a football league, he’s running a business, and business is booming.
That may seem like a lofty goal, but it’s not. The NFL has increased at an exponential rate over the years. It’s not likely to stop now. The question remains, what will push the NFL over the edge? What exactly does the NFL need to do to reach their ultimate goal?
There are at least five areas the NFL should look at. These are areas where the NFL can gain significant ground when it comes to generating more fans and even more revenue.
5 Play Safe, But Still Play
Player safety is a big concern today in any sport but especially in the NFL. Some equate football fans to barbaric blood thirsty spectators, but the truth is that blood is bad for business.
The NFL’s own fan base is proof of this. Over the years the NFL has changed several rules. Many of these rule changes have been in the interest of player safety. In spite of all of these rule changes fans have not left the sport. In fact, the revenue and fan base continue to grow with the safer play.
Another example to consider would be the UFC. In it’s early years,the UFC cage matches were devastating to the athletes inside the octagon and safety did not appear to be a high priority. As the years have progressed they have embraced regulations and rules. In doing so they have also skyrocketed their fan base and brand image.
Embracing player safety is a must for a successful league. No one wants to see a player injured. It would be even worse if a star player for a team suffered a severe season ending injury or life threatening injury. When Peyton Manning missed an entire season due to his neck surgery it appeared as if the Colts organization was begging people to come to the stadium.
If fans can’t see their favorite players because they’re injured, fans won’t come. If fans don’t come, they won’t spend money. If fans don’t spend money, revenue drops. So obviously, injury is bad for business.
The problem is finding the balance between player safety and game interference. When the rules begin to interfere with the actual game play a problem begins to develop. The NFL is open to rule changes but they must be careful to maintain the perfect balance if they want to increase revenue at a fast rate over the next decade.
4 More Teams, More Money
More customers equals more money. That’s a basic business concept that is no different in professional sports. The consumers of the sport are the fans. The NFL is always looking for ways to increase the fan experience and they are also finding ways to reach out to fans from different walks of life.
Adding enough fans to generate the revenue that the NFL is aiming for will take more than just a fan friendly experience. They will need to add more teams. They need to tap into markets that currently lack a team to motivate their sales.
Los Angeles has always been a hope for the NFL. They haven’t been able to make it work in the past. With a new culture in the city and the right owner, it might work. The NFL has grown significantly since they were last in Los Angeles. It’s about time they try again.
Some international cities might be an option. The NFL clearly has hopes for London, England and that strangely may be the perfect place to expand.
The NFL could look at starting their own team in Canada or absorbing an already existing CFL team. The NBA and MLB have Canadian representation. It might be a boost that the NFL will need.
3 Expanded Playoffs
There are always talks about expanding the season, pre-season and playoffs. The NFL has been known to shift the schedules around when it’s beneficial to them. Over the past decade the season and preseason has become more set in stone. It’s harder to get fans on board with a lot of changes. Records have become increasingly important in the NFL as well. Changing season lengths also alters “all time best” records.
The NFL has met a lot of resistance when it comes to their pre season expansion. Many fans don’t find the preseason as exciting since most of the starters don’t play. There’s also the increased risk of injury during a game that doesn’t mean anything in the long run.
The most likely way for the NFL to increase fan interest and revenue is to expand the current playoff structure. Other leagues have done this with some success. The NBA expanded their first round from five games to seven games in 2003. In 2012, MLB expanded their playoffs with a “play in” game for the wild card teams.
The NFL could find a way to increase the level of interest in the playoffs. The more fans that are interested in their teams for longer will result in increased revenue overall. This will also be easier if they expand to more teams.
2 Go Overseas
A great way for any business to make more profit is to effectively expand their market. The NFL has had their sights on Europe for a long time. Recently they have been playing select games in London to try and generate interest.
This isn’t the first attempt for the NFL to branch into the European market. From 1991 to 2007 the NFL tried a new league called NFL Europa. If was very similar to the NFL in the United States with a few rule changes, like four point field goals, for interest.
Europe wasn’t turning into the market that the NFL had hoped. In 2007, they pulled the plug to refocus their efforts. They have been trying to start small by expanding the games in London to increase interest. Once the interest is there, the market can be primed for team expansions.
The NFL can use that interest to increase media revenue even if they aren't’ able to significantly expand teams to Europe.
1 Offer a Live Streaming Package
One area the NFL has been working on is media. They have media contracts that they are locked into for now, but they are looking to new contract options in the near future. One of those options was selling the Thursday night package to a national broadcasting network and they did so by selling into CBS. Move over Big Bang Theory.
An area where the NFL is behind is in live streaming. The 2014 season has had rumors of expanding live streaming options, but that’s not enough. The NBA, MLB and NHL all have there own version of a season long streaming package. This allows fans to watch games live from many different devices even if they live outside of the market for their team.
Currently the NFL offers a streaming option to fans who live outside of the United States and Mexico. If you live inside the United States and Mexico you can subscribe to NFL Rewind. Rewind allows you to stream a game after it’s already been played. Most football fans aren’t fans of this option. In todays digital real time world it’s almost impossible to not know the ending to a game before you start watching the Rewind version.
Currently the other American Professional sports leagues charge a hefty price. The NFL could charge something above $200 to compare to other major North American leagues. The NFL is the most popular league and therefore can expect fans that are willing to pay more.
If the NFL were to offer this type of a package to it’s fans it could see an increase in revenue. There are fans who live outside of their teams market and many of those fans would purchase this package.
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