SBD/September 8, 2011/NFL Season PreviewPrint All
ESPN and the NFL have signed an eight-year extension to their media rights agreement that is worth $1.9B per year, a whopping 63% increase over the average price of the current deal. A formal announcement of the deal, which was first reported in January, came earlier this morning. The deal will keep “MNF” on ESPN through the ‘21 season. It also gives ESPN a wide swath of digital rights that will allow the network to stream live games via broadband and tablets, as part of the cable industry’s “TV Everywhere” initiative. In terms of mobile phones, only Verizon will be allowed to stream “MNF,” as the league is protecting Verizon’s four-year, $720M sponsorship deal that it signed last year. Verizon also streams NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” and NFL Network games, plus NFL RedZone. What is also noteworthy is what is not part of the deal. ESPN will not get any playoff games as part of the deal, at least not initially. The contract allows for ESPN to carry a Wild Card playoff game at some point, but it is not set in stone. Neither ESPN nor ABC will be part of the Super Bowl rotation. The NFL has never agreed to take any of its playoff games off of broadcast television. A key aspect to the deal for ESPN is that it will receive many more highlight rights, which the network will use to launch several new NFL-themed studio shows. Earlier this week, ESPN announced programming changes that moved shows like “Jim Rome Is Burning” from ESPN to ESPN2. That freed up space for ESPN to launch new shows, including one starring Pro Football HOFer Jerry Rice and another co-hosted by Suzy Kolber and Chris Mortensen.
INSIDE THE TALKS: Negotiations started a year ago, around Labor Day ‘10. Word of the pending deal was first reported in January, when the two sides agreed on the broad outline of a deal, but the labor situation that led to a four-and-a-half-month lockout put further negotiations on hold. ESPN and the NFL returned to the negotiating table soon after the NFL’s lockout ended. The NFL now is expected to turn its attention to selling a new eight-game package of early-season games, a package that has attracted interest from NBC, Turner, ESPN and Fox. Then, the NFL will look to renew its broadcast deals. Even before the current negotiation, ESPN was paying the league much more than any of the NFL’s other TV partners. ESPN’s annual payout of $1.1B dwarfs the annual rights fees paid by Fox ($720M), CBS ($620M) and NBC ($603M). Those rights fees could eclipse $1B per year.
The NFL's TV deals run through the '13 season and Fox Sports Chair David Hill expects that "it won't be long before negotiations get going" to extend those agreements, according to Rachel Cohen of the AP. During CBA discussions, the players contended that the NFL "would sign new media deals worth $8 billion, nearly double the current total." Considering the "oft-mentioned factoid that the league is a $9 billion-a-year business, a significant increase in TV rights is a major change in the size of the revenue pie divvied up by the new" CBA. The NFL was a "highly valuable property when the last TV contracts were agreed to" in '04 and '05. But even in the short time since then, the league's "place in the overall television landscape has shifted dramatically." NBC Sports Chair Mark Lazarus: "I'm sure the NFL would say that, and we'd say we bring value to them. Yes, they are valuable properties, important properties, for us, for the three main constituencies we think about. We think about the consumer obviously, and they care. For NBC, we think about our affiliates, and it's an important asset for them, and for marketers it's an important asset." CBS Sports Chair Sean McManus: "It's the dominant sport, and in a lot of ways it's a very dominant television property in general. It continues to perform extraordinarily well for us." Media research firm Wedge Partners analyst Martin Pyykkonen estimates that CBS "will have an operating income margin of about 10 percent this NFL season, with similar numbers for Fox." Cohen noted that is "less than the average in all of television, but major sporting events carry intangible benefits such as the opportunity to promote other shows to a wide audience" (AP, 9/5). SI's Peter King reports as he "traveled through camps this summer and talked to owners, they seemed sure that the negotiations for the next TV deal will be historic." King: "The price could be 50% to 70% higher -- and if one of the current networks drops out (unlikely), another cable outfit such as Turner is more than ready to jump in." King writes, "Good news for the players in 2014. The salary cap would sky-rocket that year along with the TV rights" (SI, 9/12 issue).
GOLDEN REALITY: DAILY VARIETY's Michael Ventre wrote for networks "with the fall TV primetime season on tap, the marquee matchups mean more than just ratings." Fox Exec VP/Research & Programming Bill Wanger said, "We can run promos inside our NFL coverage to launch new primetime shows, in addition to the World Series and other sports programming." ESPN VP/Programming & Acquisitions Leah LaPlaca said that the "NFL's importance continues to grow in the business partly because an overwhelming percentage of its audience watches the games in real time." LaPlaca: "It's DVR proof. It's really the ultimate reality TV" (DAILY VARIETY, 9/3).
MEDIA BRIEFING: SI.com's Richard Deitsch presented the site's "NFL broadcasting guide to the 2011 season." Deitsch wrote CBS' "headline addition" was play-by-play announcer Marv Albert. McManus: "If you have a chance to add someone like that to your team, you would be sorry not to." Albert will be joined by analyst Rich Gannon in the broadcast booth, another addition "CBS management is high on." Deitsch noted Bill Richards will take over for Scott Ackerson as Exec Producer of "FOX NFL Sunday." Richards said that he "wanted the pregame show to have a better 'live' feel this year." Richards: "I want to make it more obvious to the viewer that we have over 60 cameras at games across the country." Bill Parcells will return "for his third stint" with ESPN. ESPN's Senior Coordinating Producer for the NFL Seth Markman said, "Bill makes us better every time he's here. He'll be a major part of the Sunday Show. He's got a unique perspective as someone who has coached successfully in this league for many years and then moved into the front office. In my time in the business, there is nobody that knows more football than him." NBC will do an "in-game feature titled 'Crossing the Line,' which will offer a series of plays from the defense's view." Deitsch wrote, "Much of NBC's web strategy is driven by (Mike) Florio's Pro Football Talk, so the television arm is going to do everything possible to feature him on all things NFL." NFL Network will feature a "new team" of play-by-play announcer Brad Nessler and analyst Mike Mayock on "Thursday Night Football," which Deitsch wrote will give the net "an opportunity for much needed consistency because that's been the major issues with this broadcast." Deitsch noted former NFL Net play-by-play announcer Bob Papa "is a quality broadcaster who got dealt a very bad hand last season," and he "deserves a national gig at a network" (SI.com, 9/6).
Due to President Obama’s speech tonight, four NBCUniversal cable channels -- Versus, USA, Syfy and G4 -- as well as the NFL Network will begin coverage of the pregame show ahead of the season-opening Saints-Packers game at 7:00pm ET. The pregame show, which has been extended to 90 minutes, was originally scheduled to air on NBC. The broadcast network will join "NFL Kickoff 2011" in progress after its coverage of Obama's speech has concluded. The speech is not expected to conflict with NBC’s coverage of the game itself, scheduled for an 8:30pm kickoff (NBCUniversal). ADWEEK's Anthony Crupi wrote NBC's pregame show is "nothing to scoff at." Last year's show leading into the Redskins-Cowboys season opener "peaked at 19 million viewers." By "avoiding the game itself the president has sidestepped the greatest ratings challenge.” Last year’s season opener drew a record 27.5 million viewers, and NBC "fully expects to top that this time around” (ADWEEK.com, 9/7). Milwaukee's NBC affiliate, WTMJ, has elected to air pregame coverage "instead of President Barack Obama's speech," pushing the address to a digital channel (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 9/7). AD AGE's Brian Steinberg noted NBC likely is "trying to please advertisers" with its pregame coverage plans. Airing "NFL Kickoff 2011" on four NBCU cable nets "would presumably give advertisers the audience they were guaranteed." An NBC spokesperson “declined to comment on whether the same ad load would accompany the pre-game broadcast across all four channels” (ADAGE.com 9/7). In N.Y., George Vecsey writes under the header, "Obama Is President, But Football Is King" (NY TIMES, 9/8).
LIVE FROM GREEN BAY: NBC's "Today" this morning dedicated several segments to the start of the NFL season and showcased anchor Matt Lauer and weather reporter Al Roker live from Lambeau Field. Lauer said, “If you are a football fan, this is a shrine. This is the cathedral in Title Town, U.S.A., home to the Green Bay Packers.” Roker was in the stands with Packers fans, “some of those people lining up at 8 o’clock last night.” The show included a segment titled, “Welcome to Green Bay, Where Football is King,” on the city of Green Bay and its fans. The segment featured fans, including Father Andy Cribben of St. Willebrord Catholic Church and WNFL-AM's Mark Daniels, describing the Packers passionate fan base. A later segment had Lauer and NBC's Al Michaels inside the Packers locker room interviewing Vince Lombardi Jr. and actor Dan Lauria, who portrayed former Packers coach Vince Lombardi Sr. in a Broadway play last year. Lauria said the role of Lombardi was one of his “easier roles” because the NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodell were "so generous with all the information we needed and actual footage." Other segments included NBC sideline reporter Michele Tafoya and "Football Night in America" analysts Tony Dungy and Rodney Harrison previewing the season, as well as an interview with former Packers Antonio Freeman and Ahmad Green ("Today," NBC, 9/8).
TOO MUCH FOOTBALL? The WALL STREET JOURNAL’s Jason Gay writes, “Can’t get pumped for Thursday night football. ... There’s something inappropriate, too much. It’s like a slot machine in an airport, or smoking in church.” Non-holiday Thursday night football “is an excessive incursion, a bet by the NFL that you’re a twitchy freak who can’t get enough.” The league-owned NFL Network “is all over the schedule creep,” slated to air "seven Thursday night games this season, including a third game on Thanksgiving night” (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 9/8).
Dolphins coach Tony Sparano yesterday expressed a "level of disappointment" that the team's season opener against the Patriots will be played at 7:00pm ET Monday rather than 1:00pm Sunday, according to Brian Biggane of the PALM BEACH POST. Sparano said there "should be an advantage" to playing the opener at Sun Life Stadium. He added, "It's probably more at 1 o'clock in the afternoon. But there should be an advantage. We're playing at whatever time, 7 o'clock at night, it'll be hot for both teams, but it won't be 1 o'clock hot. But anytime you go into your place, your crowd, there should be an advantage." Dolphins Owner Stephen Ross prior to last season "asked the league to schedule the Dolphins' early-season games on the road and in the evening, and ... has made it clear he has had fans' comfort in mind in scheduling" (PALMBEACHPOST.com, 9/7). In South Florida, Dave Hyde writes the Dolphins' offseason "evidently has turned off fans in such staggering numbers that tens of thousands of Patriots fans are expected to take up the slack for the home opener." Hyde: "It was Ross who petitioned the league, starting last year, to play early season games in the late afternoon and/or at night to make it more comfortable for fans. ... Be careful what you wish for, huh? Because now it's a large contingent of opposing fans who will be comfortable" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 9/8).
TIME FOR A CHANGE? CBSSPORTS.com's Mike Freeman wrote fans should "pay close attention to the attendance situation in Florida this weekend," as the Dolphins, Jaguars and Buccaneers all have "struggled to sell tickets." The NFL "remains the most popular of sports, but the blackout situation -- and there are other teams facing this issue, about a half-dozen total -- has to be concerning." It is "possible the only team that ends up blacked out is Tampa, but the fact that so many teams struggled to sell tickets in the opening week is not good." Freeman: "We may be seeing the beginning of a league-wide trend where many teams, in the future, don't fill their stadiums because of ticket prices, drunken fools going to the game and HD television. It seems only a matter of time before the NFL is forced to alter its blackout rules" (CBSSPORTS.com, 9/7).
In Denver, Mike Klis reports Pro Football HOFer John Elway is moving "on to the next stage of his life," as he enters his first season as Broncos Exec VP/Football Operations. Elway "has a vision for the Broncos," one that contains "noticeable traces of nostalgia, yet not clouded with emotion." He said, "I've always thought about this organization and its always representing class. ... I'm not trying to say it hasn't been run with class, but I think there's been a lot of episodes in the last four or five years that we never had before." Elway added, "This has to be a place that wins, but it also has to be a place where Broncos fans never lose their connection." Meanwhile, MLB Rangers President & CEO Nolan Ryan, himself a HOFer in his sport, said of the transition Elway faces going to the front office, "The side that's going to be a challenge for him is that as a player, whether it's football or baseball, there's so many facets of responsibilities that he has now. So he's going to have a learning curve" (DENVER POST, 9/8).
HEAR THEM ROAR: In Detroit, Bill Shea noted a "cadre of talented young players who have shown flashes of brilliance" along with a front office and coaching staff that have "earned praise from the national media have translated into an improving financial picture for the Lions." Team President Tom Lewand said, "We are pleased with where we are in all of our key business metrics. We're seeing double-digit growth in almost every area to date." Those areas include "suite sales and corporate sponsorship investment," and Lewand noted that the Lions "added Quicken Loans as a corporate sponsor this year and expanded current deals with McDonald's and Meijer." He also said that season ticket sales "are doing better than 2010, which in turn were up over the previous year" (CRAINSDETROIT.com, 9/4).
THE SPIRIT OF ST. LOUIS: In St. Louis, Bryan Burwell wrote he feels the "chances of the Rams taking up permanent residence here in St. Louis are far more promising than I would have ever expected." Signs "point to the city and state working out a deal" that will keep Rams Owner Stan Kroenke "satisfied even if there is no way we can ever give him a stadium that belongs in the upper tier of NFL stadiums." The Missouri legislature Monday announced that it would discuss a bill "that would allow state legislators to pass a law that would provide incentives to lure amateur sports events" to the state, such as the NCAA Final Four. That could make St. Louis a "more attractive place" to hold events, and anything that makes the Edward Jones Dome "more attractive to the NCAA will benefit the Rams." There is now "reason to believe that the local and state government will act wisely in negotiations to keep Kroenke from pulling up stakes." Meanwhile, sources said that at "no point in any discussions with local officials concerning the dome lease has Kroenke ever brought up relocating the franchise back to L.A." (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 9/7).
From stilettos and spa slippers to nail polish and an expanded swimwear line, women’s product licensees have exploded in the past 12 months. It is all part of the league-wide strategy directed by Tracey Bleczinski, who since taking the reigns as NFL VP/Consumer Products & Apparel has put an end to “shrink it and pink it.” The league last year began the NFL Women’s Apparel: Fit For You marketing campaign, and Bleczinski noted the launch “far exceeded” expectations and that the “women’s business is our fastest growing business.” Year two of the campaign brings a revamped website, NFL.com/Women, with two new tabs featuring an online catalog where fans can get ideas for team fashion. All the women featured in the vignettes are all women associated with the NFL, including Cowboys Exec VP/Brand Management and President of Charities Charlotte Jones Anderson; Tanya Snyder, the wife of Redskins Owner Dan Snyder; Suzanne Johnson, the wife of Jets Owner Woody Johnson; and Packers President & CEO Mark Murphy's daughters Anna, Emily and Katie. There is a rivalry theme for each week of the season, updated to include a new look with hot links on the products directing fans to NFL.Shop.com. Another new feature on the website is an NFL Game Day Party tab where fans can share ideas on recipes and at-home entertaining with the intent to drive awareness for and focus on the hard goods offered. “We know that our female fans -- they want to be able to support their team in all sorts of other ways beyond just T-shirts and caps, so we’re really responding to that,” Bleczinski said. The league again teamed with Grey, N.Y., for the ad campaign and Alliance for promotional elements. The full campaign will launch Sept. 20 through TV, social media and a heavy focus on print publications including Shape, People, Cosmopolitan, SI, Vogue, InStyle and Seventeen. Bleczinski spoke more on the upcoming campaign:
Q: What new elements can we expect for the campaign this year?
Bleczinski: You are going to see a different approach for the print ads. You’ll see an expansion on that campaign, the website. This year is really about continuing to build the awareness about our products, letting our female fans know where to get the products and then also a big emphasis this year is just -- I don’t want to call it education on how to wear the product -- but it’s more just giving people ideas that you can wear your products other days of the week beyond Sundays or Mondays. It’s not just for game day.
Q: Is there one women’s product or category that hasn’t entered the licensing game yet?
Bleczinski: Core basics fitness products. I would say that is a bit of white space that we have right now that we will be filling that void in 2012 … Cosmetics, because we do have bath and body products but we haven’t gotten into cosmetics which I think could be an interesting angle.
Q: With Nike coming on as the NFL’s apparel provider next season, do you anticipate Nike bringing in a new demographic of consumers?
Bleczinski: I think that Nike will bring, I don’t want to say a new demo because I know that when you look at our demographics it’s really so widespread in terms of gender and age and all those different areas that we look at. But I do think that there is a Nike consumer that will probably come onboard a little bit more than they are now.
Some items being offered this season include a Packers Marina satchel from
Anastasio Moda, Saints snow boots from Cuce and Packers stackable rings
Associated Banc-Corp yesterday launched a new ad campaign featuring Packers QB Aaron Rodgers promoting the Green Bay-based bank's products and services. The TV, radio and newspaper campaign will air in eight Wisconsin cities in September and October. The spots are expected to run on weekdays and during TV and radio broadcasts of Packers games. Print ads will appear in about 40 Wisconsin newspapers. Customers who open a Packers checking account will receive a package that includes a custom Rodgers bobblehead, poster, and checkbook cover with Rodgers' signature and the Packers logo, accompanied by a free first order of Packers checks. Customers using their Packers debit MasterCard between Sept. 6 and Dec. 31 will be automatically entered into the Ultimate Aaron Rodgers Experience for a chance to win tickets to all '12 Packers home games, an invitation to a meet and greet with Rodgers and a replica Super Bowl XLV ring paperweight (Associated Banc-Corp).
NEW SOLUTIONS: In N.Y., Stuart Elliott takes a look at advertisers' preparations for the NFL season amid uncertainty and reports FedEx will "introduce a campaign during the first game of the season" that will present a new theme, "Solutions that matter." FedEx Advertising & Marketing Communications Dir Steve Pacheco said his company was "sweating" the potential for a delay or disruption. Pacheco added, "We don't know yet" whether the company will return to the Super Bowl next year. Pacheco: "The decision will be made very soon." He continued, "I do believe there'll be other opportunities, maybe outside the Super Bowl, for big impact" (N.Y. TIMES, 9/8). Meanwhile, the WALL STREET JOURNAL's Nando Di Fino notes FX's "The League," a show about six friends in a fantasy football league, was "jeopardized" by the NFL lockout. Unsure "how a work stoppage would play out, 'The League' co-creators, Jeff Schaffer and Jackie Marcus Schaffer, wrote two separate storylines." The first "assumed the lockout would be settled and featured the usual mock drafts of NFL players and scoring based on their real-life performances." In the "other storyline, the comedy got a little darker." Characters "struggled to cope with the void, at one point pondering an improbable fantasy-curling league" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 9/8).
PLANES AND AUTOMOBILES: Jet Air Group announced Tuesday that it has partnered with the Packers to offer flight services for Packers games (GREEN BAY PRESS-GAZETTE)....Kumho Tire USA has "increased its sports marketing lineup, inking a deal" with the NFL Jets for the '11-13 seasons. Kumho will be the official tire of the Jets and will have a pregame "fan zone at all 10 home games for this coming season." The Kumho Tire "big rig and Kumho girls will be present at each game for giveaways and other fan activities". Kumho will also "have in-stadium signage" at MetLife Stadium (TIREREVIEW.com, 9/7).
CLOTHING CONTROVERSY: In Pittsburgh, Brian Bowling reports the Steelers and the Allegheny Valley School Foundation have "sued Eugene Berry Enterprise LLC, saying the company infringed on the The Terrible Towel trademark by producing and selling its own version of "the Terrible T-shirt." U.S. District Court Judge Arthur Schwab yesterday "granted a preliminary injunction that makes sales of the T-shirt illegal until the lawsuit is included" (PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 9/8).
THE DAILY presents a comprehensive list of the official corporate partners of the NFL for the '11 season. NFL corporate partnership benefits vary from deal to deal, but they typically include category exclusivity, use of league marks for advertising and promotional purposes, event signage, media exposure through radio, print and TV ads, as well as various hospitality benefits. The group below does not include media or apparel partners, or any pending renewals that expired at the end of the '10 season.
SPONSOR CATEGORYSINCE Gatorade Isotonic Beverage'83 Visa USA Payment Systems Services'95 Campbell’s Soup Soup, Canned Pasta, Tomato Food Sauces, Salsa'98 Motorola Wireless Telecommunications Equipment'99 FedEx Worldwide Package Delivery Service'00 Frito-Lay Salted Snack/Popcorn/Peanuts/Dips'00 GM Car & Passenger Truck'01 Mars Snackfood Chocolate & Non-chocolate Confectionery'02 Pepsi Soft Drinks'02 IBM Computer Hardware, Software, IT Services'03 Dairy Management Inc. Dairy, Milk, Yogurt, Cheese'03 Procter & Gamble (Prilosec) Heartburn Medication'05 Bridgestone Tire Sponsor'07 National Guard U.S. Armed Forces'09 Procter & Gamble (Gillette; Head & Shoulders; Vicks) Grooming Products, Fabric Care/Air Care, Household Needs'09 Papa John’s Official Pizza'10 Verizon Wireless Telecommunication Service'10 Barclays Official Credit Card'10 Castrol Official Motor Oil'11 USAA Official Military Appreciation'11 Anheuser-Busch Official Beer'11 BOSE Official Home Theater System'11
The 15 NFL teams that sell personal seat licenses last season sold an average of 48,200 PSLs, accounting for an average of 69% of capacity at their respective venues, according to data from consulting firm Conventions, Sports & Leisure Int’l. The Giants led all clubs with 75,261 PSLs sold. The Ravens led all clubs in licenses as a percent of capacity at 96%. The Cowboys had the highest projections in terms of PSL revenue over the duration of the Cowboys Stadium with $650M. By comparison, the Seahawks finished at the bottom with only $20.5M in revenue projected (THE DAILY).NFL TEAMS WITH PSLs AT HOME VENUES ('10 FIGURES)
TEAM VENUEPSLsPSLs AS % OF CAPACITYTOTAL PSL
Cowboys Cowboys Stadium56,31470%$650.0M Giants MetLife Stadium75,26191%$400.0M Jets MetLife Stadium47,80458%$325.9M Panthers Bank of America Stadium62,40088%$195.0M Raiders O.Co Coliseum45,00071%$84.0M Rams Edward Jones Dome57,80088%$74.0M Ravens M&T Bank Stadium65,70096%$72.3M Titans LP Field61,50090%$71.0M Eagles Lincoln Financial Field29,00043%$60.0M Bears Soldier Field27,50045%$55.0M Texans Reliant Stadium45,42068%$50.0M Steelers Heinz Field49,53377%$45.2M Browns Browns Stadium49,73372%$35.0M Bengals Paul Brown Stadium42,00065%$25.0M Seahawks CenturyLink Field8,35613%$20.5M