If you had any doubts that this is MLB’s “Boom or Bust Era”, here is a datum:
- The regular season does not end until 29 September. Nonetheless, with 17 days still to go in the regular season, MLB set a record last night for the total number of HRs in a season. The old record – set in 2017 – was 6,105 home runs.
Speaking of the impending end of the MLB regular season, the news that Christian Yelich will miss the rest of the season with a broken kneecap pretty much ends the debate as to the NL MVP for 2019. Until the revelation that Yelich would miss the final 3 weeks of the season, I thought it was a two-horse race for the MVP honor. Now, I think Cody Bellinger is a shoo-in for that award.
Some of the TV ratings data have come in for the first week of the NFL season and the numbers do not support those who think that the Age of Football in America is over:
- The opening game between the Packers and Bears on Thursday night saw a ratings increase of just under 15% from last year.
- Moreover, the ratings maintained their high level throughout the game even though it was a defensive struggle that ended with a 10-3 score. [More on that later…]
- The two Monday games also drew higher ratings. Having the Texans and Saints playing in New Orleans after the events of last year’s playoff debacle there surely helped those ratings. This “early” Monday game had ratings up almost 24% from last year when the game was the Lions versus the Jets.
- Seeing the Raiders in the aftermath of their Antonio Brown saga probably drew a few eyeballs to that late Monday game.
I think it is interesting to note that the ratings for games often decline as the game goes on. Those declines were smaller for this season’s opening games than in the past and this is my hypothesis as to why that is the case:
- In 2019, sports betting is readily available to people who do not live in or who have traveled to Nevada that weekend. Sports betting is now conveniently located near large population centers in New Jersey and Pennsylvania with more “convenience” coming soon.
- I suspect that means that more people had wagers on the games last weekend; and when you are betting with the spread or on the Total Line, the game on the TV in front of you can remain “in doubt” up until the final play of the game.
If I am correct, then TV ratings – and the persistence of those ratings – should be up for much of the season. Since TV ratings are large revenue drivers for the league, that could be a significant omen as they enter into negotiations with the networks for the next set of media rights contracts. I believe the current network deals need to be renewed in 2022.
People who believe – or want to believe – that the Age of Football in America is in decline can point to live attendance figures to bolster their assertions(s). Last year, the average attendance at an NFL regular season game was 67,050; that was the lowest average live gate for the NFL in 8 years. However, the important thing to note here is that live attendance is not the revenue driver that television is. Let’s do some math:
- If the average seat costs $100, then those 67,050 folks attending all 256 NFL regular season games produced a total revenue of about $1.72B. That is a lot of cheese – – until you realize that the revenue is an average over 32 teams and so each team would take in about $54M.
- The network TV deals are also split evenly among the clubs and those deals bring each club a tad more than $220M.
- Even if you add in the parking fees and the beers consumed, there is no way that the live gate is comparable to the TV revenues.
In fact, I could be convinced that the NFL would not mind a bit if the live attendance dropped even more so long as TV ratings climbed a bit. Over the past decade, the NFL teams have done just about everything they could to make the “home TV experience” as good as – or better than – the “live game experience”.
Forget the vagaries of the weather – particularly in places like Buffalo in December or Arizona in early September – the league has made the home viewing experience superior to the live game experience:
- It is more convenient – no traffic and parking hassles
- You can see the plays better on a big screen HD TV than you can at the stadium
- You can select the people with whom you will see the game
- There is less likelihood that a fight will break out in your living room as compared to the stands.
- You can watch The Red Zone Channel if that is your thing, [Aside: It is not my thing; I never watch the Red Zone.]
- Add to all the above that it is cheaper for the fan to stay home and watch the game. Oh, and that could mean that the fan has a little more cash to “get down” on a game or two that he will want to watch to its conclusion…
The total number of fannies in seats for NFL games last year was 17.2M. There are lots of people who attend multiple games so I would be surprised if the number of different folks going to a stadium to see a game was over 12 million. Compare that to an estimate – surely inflated to the high side given the estimate’s source – by the American Gaming Commission that 38 million people will wager on an NFL game sometime this season.
The conclusion here is that NFL Football is a TV series and it is a TV series that is enjoyed by a wide and loyal audience. Everything that enhances that TV series makes the NFL an even bigger player in the entertainment segment of the economy and society. The Age of Football in America is not over yet.
Finally, here is a comment from Greg Cote in last week’s Miami Herald:
“The Ironman 70.3 World Championships were held Saturday in France. I’d planned to compete, but decided at the last minute to wait in a long line for one of those Popeye’s chicken sandwiches instead.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………