SBD/July 29, 2011/Media

Roll The Tape: Relationship Between NFL Films, Network Examined

NFL Films' impact on the league, "both in terms of popularity and profitability, is unquestioned," yet the company "finds itself battling for survival against people who seem to think it has outlived its usefulness," according to the PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS' Paul Domowitch, who writes under the header, "NFL Films And Network: A Marriage Gone Bad." NFL Films' budget has been "slashed, its workforce has been gutted by two rounds of layoffs and buyouts, and it essentially has been reduced to an assembly line for cheap, quick-turnaround content for the NFL Network." A workforce that "once included more than 300 employees has been whittled to 215." Most of the "signature programming that made Films so distinctive has been eliminated" because it was "determined to be either too costly or too yesterday or both." CSNPhilly.com's Ray Didinger, who worked at NFL Films for nine years before leaving in '09, said, "The thing that has always set NFL Films apart, the thing that has been its trademark, is the slow spiral in the air. ... But you've got these guys (at NFL Network) now with ADD, they're watching that ball spinning and they're saying, 'OK, let's catch it already. Go, go, go. Catch the ball, will ya.'" He added, "Every time we would propose an NFL Films-type look at something, you could kind of see them say, 'Well, ya know, we were thinking of something that was a little edgier and a little punchier and a little faster.'" Domowitch notes since the arrival of NFL Network President & CEO Steve Bornstein and NFL Films COO Howard Katz eight years ago, "several quality shows, including critically acclaimed 'Game of the Week' and 'Lost Treasures,' were deep-sixed." Former NFL Films VP/Special Projects Phil Tuckett said, "They're destroying that company. It's a cold-blooded killing. Bornstein and Katz are just cold-eyed network killers. They don't care about what we represented." Bornstein declined to comment. 

CHANGING BUSINESS MODEL: Domowitch writes the NFL "never cared whether Films made money." But when Bornstein and Katz arrived, it "suddenly started caring how much it was losing." Katz "wouldn't say how much that was," but a league exec indicated that it was "somewhere in the neighborhood of $20 million a year." Katz said, "Eight years ago, there was less attention paid to the business of NFL Films. We're a better company today because we've been forced, partially through the volume and deadlines that were established by the NFL Network, to establish a degree of financial responsibility that I think is necessary in today's environment." Katz insisted that the league "isn't trying to put Films out to pasture." He added that the company "remains as relevant as ever." Katz: "We produce great content, and there's always going to be a meaningful market for great content. Whether that's short features on mobile devices or giving people access to our shows on Hulu, this company has an enormous future" (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 7/29).
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