Saturday, October 5, 2019

Do we care whether Thursday Night Football better than Monday Night Football?

This is from a post on, which is a general interest, Flipboard/Feedly type website with all of the in-depth analysis you'd expect from that kind of medium. It's interesting to me as a college football fan not just because Thursday is also a night for college games but also because the NFL is not the pinnacle of quality sports television that it used to be.
Though they used to be the exception, close, entertaining, games have now become the rule on Thursday Night Football, which airs on a plethora of platforms including Amazon Prime, the NFL Network and Fox. Meanwhile, at the same time, comparable games on ESPN’s Monday Night Football have shown a tendency to be blowouts, especially this season.

Consider: Over the previous three seasons the average margin of victory on TNF was 13.3 points compared to 11.5 on MNF. This season, those numbers have almost completely flipped with the average margin of victory on MNF ballooning to 14 points compared to it shrinking to just 6.75 points on TNF.

The close games which TNF has been offering of late make it a much more compelling product to watch, as does its broadcast team of Joe Buck and Troy Aikman. Buck and Aikman’s counterparts in the booth on MNF, Joe Tessitore and Booger McFarland, simply don’t have the chemistry of their competitors on Fox nor have they really had the time to develop it thanks to the lack of continuity in ESPN’s broadcast.
Interesting, but... many football fans are less than happy with today's NFL. The insertion of politics into the game and into commentary on or about NFL Football is a complete turnoff. This a sports competition. The players are there to be the best competitors they can, not make a statement.  Save the cultural and political statements for the halftime shows. 

Also, can we agree that the quality of play has dropped off? This is not the violent collision sport that I came of age watching. It seems to be more and more about the quarterback and his protection than it is about field position, defense and special teams.

Hmm... When the quality of a product falls, should its producers seek to provide more of it? If demand for a product is falling, the incentive for producers is to reduce supply. If television ratings and game attendance are any indication of consumer demand for NFL Football (of course, they are), demand fell in 2016 and 2017. It rebounded a bit in 2018:
Television networks rely heavily on the NFL. Games and NFL-related programming accounted for 63% of Fox’s gross ratings points last season, according to MoffettNathanson. ESPN, CBS and NBC all got about a quarter of their aggregate gross ratings points from NFL content.

Like the rest of television programming, the NFL has seen its ratings decline in recent years due in part to viewers increasingly ditching cable for streaming services. All four major rights holders saw ratings decline in 2016 and 2017.

The league also has been the subject of political controversies in recent years, as activist players such as Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid have drawn the ire of President Donald Trump.

The league’s ratings, however, grew by an average of 5% last year, according to MoffettNathanson. Viewership among people ages 18 to 24 shrank by less than 5%, and viewership increased among older viewers.
One might think that the 2018 rebound in TV ratings might indicate at least a bottoming out of consumer disfavor, but a Forbes review of attendance for 2018 indicates a "not so fast:"
All of this would seem to paint a picture of the NFL being completely back on the upswing. And in terms of television, you’d probably be right. But when it came to the gate for the NFL regular season, it wasn’t.

The 2018 regular season saw average attendance at 67,100, the lowest average since 2011. The Chargers were up the most, but that’s a bit misleading because their first season in LA was abysmal (average of 25,335) and they have should expected to sell out each week in 2018 given that they’ve been playing in the home of the MLS's LA Galaxy, with a seating capacity of 27,000, until they get into the new location they’ll share with the Rams in Inglewood.

Washington led the league in attendance decline, followed by Tampa Bay and Cincinnati.
So, while ratings rebounded a bit, attendance has slumped. The CNBC analysis shows that the ratings indicate that the 2018 rebound didn't regain what was lost in 2016 and 2017. The average attendance so far for the 2019 season is anecdotally lower. Finally completing the picture: revenues from advertising are down despite the ratings bump.

Demand is off. Revenues are off. So why do we care which weeknight offering is performing better, unless we're deciding which one of the two should be done away with?

One answer to this question is that the 2019 season started without a new collective bargaining agreement between the NFL Players Union and the NFL Owners.

Another answer is that in an environment of flat to falling demand, the league and its media partners will soon be renegotiating both broadcast and streaming rights contracts in the coming years. Streaming technology has completely changed the terrain of that battle.

Facing uncertain demand going forward, those negotiations will be... tough. Complicating those negotiations will be negotiations between the players and the owners.

As a rabid college football fan with a ... mild? attachment to the New Orleans Saints, my fanhood won't be hurt if either MNF or TNF goes away. That would just make more room for more college ball.


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