NFL Flex Schedule Changes Phelps Edelman's Mark Hass Leaving In July Orioles Launch License Plate Auction WME Signs LeBron For Entertainment Work Fox Introduces Buck, Norman As Golf Announcers Castrol Renews NFL Sponsorship Boston Marathon Participation Most Since '96 Wrigley Field Celebrates 100 Years
SBD/September 9, 2011/NFL Season PreviewPrint All
NBC earned a 17.2 overnight Nielsen rating for the Packers' dramatic 42-34 win over the Saints Thursday night from 8:45-11:45pm ET, marking the second-best NFL regular-season primetime game in 13 years. The rating is down 2.8% from a 17.7 overnight for last year's Vikings-Saints NFL Kickoff game. Thursday night's telecast peaked at a 18.8 rating just before halftime. NBC won the night among all networks, earning the best primetime average (8:00-11:00pm) for any net since Fox aired the season finale of "American Idol" on May 25. NBC also marked its best non-Olympic Thursday primetime average since the series finale of "Frasier" in May '04. New Orleans led all markets with a 57.7 local rating, while Milwaukee earned a 53.1 rating (THE DAILY). The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Don Walker posted on his Twitter feed, “Giddy NBC execs must be thinking this: how do we top this Packers-Saints game next week? Answer: You don't. Just enjoy it” (TWITTER.com, 9/8). NBC's Al Michaels said following the summer's lockout, there is "as much interest, maybe even slightly more, than there has ever been in the National Football League," and he predicted ratings this season "are going to be gangbusters.” Michaels said he, analyst Cris Collinsworth and sideline reporter Michele Tafoya “were kind of kidding around the other day about we better remain No. 1 for the season. ... Otherwise, our new boss Mark Lazarus is going to put us on the waiver wire” ("Morning Drive," Golf Channel, 9/9).
NFL KICKOFF OVERNIGHT RATINGS TRENDYEARNETMATCHUPOVERNIGHT'11NBCPackers-Saints17.2'10NBCSaints-Vikings17.7'09NBCSteelers-Titans13.8'08NBCGiants-Redskins*10.1'07NBCColts-Saints13.0'06NBCSteelers-Dolphins13.5'05ABCPatriots-Raiders13.1'04ABCPatriots-Colts12.6'03ABCRedskins-Jets14.5
NOTE: * = Game began early due to coverage of the Republican National Convention.
OPENING NIGHT REVIEWS: Michaels and Collinsworth began their third season together in the "SNF" booth, and their call of the game drew a fair amount of reaction on Twitter. The Buffalo News' Mike Harrington wrote, “Al Michaels was absurdly reserved on that final drive and the last play. Gus Johnson would have been going totally beserk.” The Globe & Mail’s Bruce Dowbiggin wrote, “Love Al Michaels. While sidekick Collinsworth calls everything unbelievable, Al calls it ‘a good one.’ Understatement still works.” But the Big Lead’s Jason McIntyre asked, “Why Wasn’t Al Michaels That Impressed by Randall Cobb’s 108-Yard Kickoff Return?” The Washington Post’s Cindy Boren noted, “Can't believe how many things Collinsworth finds ‘unbelievable.’”
THURSDAY NIGHT IS "FOOTBALL NIGHT": In Milwaukee, Bob Wolfley wrote, "With all the elements to fold into a 90-minute show, including performances by Kid Rock, Maroon 5, Lady Antebellum, along with taped interviews and live analysis, the 'Football Night in America' pre-game show was crisply presented." Aside from some "minor audio problems, the show moved tightly and swiftly. Bob Costas and Dan Patrick made something hard look easy" (JSONLINE.com, 9/8). But N.Y. Daily News columnist Bob Raissman wrote on Twitter, “It makes me nervous watching Dan Patrick, especially when he keeps looking down to read notes. He should never leave studio” (TWITTER.com, 9/8).
NOT LOSING SIGHT OF THE TASK AT HAND: The DAILY NEWS' Raissman writes following "all the pregame ceremonies, all the anticipation," it will be up to Michaels and Collinsworth "to deliver the right words" Sunday night regarding the Cowboys-Jets game with the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks serving as a backdrop. Once "they kick it off on NBC's 'Sunday Night Football' Michaels will treat it as such." Michaels: "It (Cowboys-Jets) is a phenomenal game with 15 or 20 storylines. But bottom line, it's still a football game." Raissman writes, "By no means is Michaels throwing ice cubes on the significance of Sunday night as it relates to 9/11. Nor is he treating the circumstances matter-of-factly." There is substantial evidence "suggesting Michaels knows what he's talking about." Michaels' resume is "highlighted by meaningful moments and big games, which includes preparing to do play-by-play of a baseball game and winding up calling an earthquake on ABC when it hit San Francisco before Game 3 of the A's-Giants 1989 World Series" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 9/9). Michaels said he will try to “strike the balance" between the game and the theme of the day. Michaels: "That's what we’re going to try to do and that’s what we really always try to do” (“Morning Drive,” Golf Channel, 9/9).
REMEMBERING 9/11: The HOLLYWOOD REPORTER's Sophie Schillaci reported Fox plans to air several features to Sunday, including one "narrated by former president George W. Bush," which is slated to air at the beginning of the "Fox NFL Sunday" pregame show at 12:00pm. Bush in the segment "talks about heroism, perseverance and recovery." Actor Robert DeNiro is also "lending his voice" as part of a pregame tribute from Shanksville, Pa. (HOLLYWOOD REPORTER, 9/8). The NFL and MLB, as well as several individual teams, also have tributes plans for Sunday.
ESPN is denying a story in Friday's N.Y. Post claiming that Dish Network could drop the channel from its basic package over growing rights fees. The net issued a statement saying, "The Post story is untrue. We have had no discussions of this nature with Dish" (John Ourand, THE DAILY). The POST's Claire Atkinson in the story reports the dispute between Dish and ESPN "was given new life" Thursday when ESPN announced its eight-year extension with the NFL. Sources said that Dish is "negotiating a new carriage renewal deal with ESPN and is balking at passing along big fee hikes from sports providers to its satellite-TV customers." Dish wants Disney to "offer the sports network on a separate tier from its basic package so that non-sports fans aren’t penalized." Cable, satellite and telecom companies are "bracing for fee increases in light of ESPN's new NFL deal." In the past 18 months, ESPN "has also paid big fee increases for Wimbledon tennis, Pac-12 and BCS college football." ESPN already is the "highest-priced network," estimated at $4.69 a month per subscriber, and SNL Kagan Analyst Derek Baine said that the network's "annual increase is around 8 percent, compared with an industry average of 3 percent." But one source indicated that ESPN "was going after a double-digit increase in current negotiations" (N.Y. POST, 9/9). ESPN/ABC Sports President George Bodenheimer on Thursday "was adamant there will be no NFL-specific surcharge on subscriber fees ESPN charges to distributors." But on Long Island, Neil Best notes "rising rights fees for all sports inevitably are passed on to consumers through television bills, whether they are sports fans" (NEWSDAY, 9/9). Bodenheimer said that ESPN "will 'never' slap an NFL surcharge on multichannel ops, but he also underscored numerous times how the deal 'enhances the value of a cable subscription'" (CABLEFAX DAILY, 9/9).
THE COST OF DOING BUSINESS: USA TODAY's Michael Hiestand notes ESPN "will be able to create lots of new NFL programming" with the eight-year extension. ESPN gains access "to 500 hours of new programming annually that can include having 'NFL' in shows' titles, something that can only be done with league approval." As part of the new arrangement, "Sunday NFL Countdown" will expand from two to three hours and start at 10:00am ET, beginning this weekend. Also, viewers will be able to watch ESPN's "MNF" on iPads (USA TODAY, 9/9). ESPN Exec VP/Content John Skipper said, "The value of the NFL to us is the ubiquity of the sport across our platforms all the time. It’s just stupendous for us. It’s daily product -- we don’t have a day without the NFL." Skipper called the new deal "fiscally prudent" for ESPN, adding, "We will be able to absorb and continue to grow" (N.Y. TIMES, 9/9). ESPN will pay an estimated $1.9B annually to the NFL through '21, and in Milwaukee, Bob Wolfley wrote, "No Super Bowl, no conference championship, no playoff games for ESPN, except a wild card game at some point, maybe. That is beyond baffling. It’s stupefying. That kind of money should be able to buy everything." While ESPN gains 500 more hours of NFL program each year, Wolfley wonders, "How much NFL programming is too much?" (JSONLINE.com, 9/8).
PAY AS YOU GO: The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Sam Schechner reports ESPN "won't have to swallow the entire jump in costs from one contract to the next all at once." A source indicated that the "amount it has been paying for NFL games rises over the course of each deal." Nomura Equity Research analyst Michael Nathanson estimated that ESPN's payments to the NFL "will jump 24% in 2014 before resuming a compound annual growth rate of 6%" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 9/9).
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell Thursday night said a testing system for HGH in NFL players is "ready to go as soon as we get the green light" from the NFLPA, and he expects it is "going to go" at some point this season. Goodell spoke prior to Thursday night's Saints-Packers game to NBC's Bob Costas, who noted there has "been a holdup" in adding the testing. Goodell said, "We did agree in our collective bargaining agreement that we would start HGH testing with the regular season. The union wanted to get some additional information that's been provided to them. I think it's important for us to implement it as soon as possible for player health and safety and also for the integrity of the game. I expect that we'll be hearing from them shortly to get it implemented." Costas asked if Goodell was concerned the union was "trying to cover for some players who may be using HGH.” Goodell: “I'm not as concerned about that as I am the fact that we should have implemented this with the start of the regular season. We had more than sufficient time. It had been negotiated … over a lengthy period of time and I don't think there's anything new that's developed since we agreed to it” ("Football Night In America," NBC, 9/8). More Goodell: "If players are taking it -- and it's my expectation that some are -- that's bad for their health. ... It's also an integrity-of-the-game issue. We want our players performing without the need for performance-enhancing drugs" (FOXSPORTS.com, 9/8).
PLAYERS STILL HAVE QUESTIONS: NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith Thursday said that “players have serious questions about the safety and reliability" of HGH testing. He added that WADA “has not turned over the information the players’ association has requested and will not agree to the test until that time.” Smith: “The one thing that we don’t know is what that population test looks like. Who was included in that study? What were the ratio levels? Were they tested, or was that populations tested in conditions or similar situations that would mirror professional athletes? I don’t know.” Broncos S and NFLPA Exec Committee member Brian Dawkins “believes players will approve HGH testing eventually -- maybe even this year -- once everything has been reviewed.” Dawkins: “We’ve never shied away from the fact that (HGH) needs to be tested. But it’s just doing it the right way and going about it in not such an invasive way as far as some of the things were considered here recently” (AP, 9/8).
STATS IN THE STADIUM: NFL VP/Communications Brian McCarthy said that the league is "directing all 32 clubs to display real-time fantasy football stats at all home games" for this season, starting with Thursday night's Saints-Packers season opener. USA TODAY's Michael McCarthy noted that it had been "up to individual clubs to decide if they wanted to show player stats from outside games.” But the NFL “wants fans at live games to feel as plugged in as they would be on their couch at home.” League HQs will be “shooting all teams real-time fantasy stats -- and directing them to post on video boards for fans in the stands” (USATODAY.com, 9/8). Fantasy Sports Trade Association President Paul Charchian said, “This is a dramatic change from where the NFL was even 5-6 years ago. The NFL has come to realize fantasy is not gambling, it’s not tainting the game. It’s creating millions of super fans with allegiances that extend beyond their geographic favorite team.” Goodell in an e-mail to NFL fans on Thursday "stressed the importance of the stadium experience, and this new fantasy policy seems to address that aim” (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 9/8). But in Oakland, Monte Poole writes, "Attending an NFL game, a tradition in every city with a franchise, has lost much of the magnetism it once held.” Fans can get a "better game experience, at a lower cost, at home or in a sports bar.” Poole adds, "No sport provides more vivid and comprehensive TV experience than football, and TVs have never been more vivid and complete than they are in the 21st century” (OAKLAND TRIBUNE, 9/9).
PLEASE ACCEPT THIS APOLOGY: In Boston, Shalise Manza Young noted Goodell's letter "essentially thanks fans for their patience during the lockout." Goodell wrote in part, "All of us in the NFL appreciate your patience and understanding through what was a most unusual and challenging off-season. Now we are ready to enjoy what the NFL is all about -- great players, great fans, intense competition, the performance and passion surrounding America’s most popular game. … Be assured, however, that we believe in better. Players, owners, coaches, team and league staff -- working together -- will be putting our collective foot on the accelerator. We have more work to do to improve our league and game on a variety of fronts. We will do that by continuing to focus on the quality of the game and innovation. And we will do it relentlessly” (BOSTON.com, 9/8).
Bears LB Lance Briggs took to Twitter Thursday to announce he received "special red, white and blue cleats and gloves from Reebok" to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, and he plans on wearing them during Sunday's game against the Falcons "despite the NFL's strict uniform rules that prohibit players from wearing colors of their choosing," according to Michael David Smith of PRO FOOTBALL TALK. Briggs wrote, "For the anniversary of 9/11 game why is it if I wear shoes and gloves that are the colors of our nations flag..I will be fined by the league." Briggs "indicated that he'll violate the uniform rule and take the fine." He wrote, "By far the best fine I will ever have to pay" (PROFOOTBALLTALK.com, 9/8). Briggs "lamented that players can wear pink shoes and gloves as part of the league's breast cancer awareness initiative." In Chicago, Sean Jensen wrote he suspects Briggs "isn't alone in voicing this concern, and the league may make some exceptions" (SUNTIMES.com, 9/8). In Nashville, John Glennon reported Titans QB Matt Hasselbeck also received a "pair of special red, white and blue cleats from Reebok earlier this week" that have the word "Never" printed on the heel of the left cleat and "Forget" on the right cleat. Hasselbeck said that he would "consider wearing the cleats for warm-ups and even for the game itself on Sunday, despite the fact that the NFL would discipline him for a uniform violation." Hasselbeck: "I don't know if that's legal. That would probably be a fine from the NFL. I'm debating whether or not it's worth it" (TENNESSEAN.com, 9/8).
OPENING PANDORA'S BOX? ESPN's Skip Bayless said, "When an NFL game starts, that uniform code must be enforced. It must be held sacred, or you’ll open a Pandora’s Box of all sorts of players deciding to commemorate or honor whatever issue or memory that they so choose. It could be religious, it could be political, it could be anything. You just can’t let one start because how do you say ‘no’ to the next one and ‘no’ to the next one" ("First Take," ESPN2, 9/9). ESPN's Greenberg: "I understand both sides of it because I could see … some players might try to make some sort of statement that might not be what everyone wants to see. I don’t know how anyone would be offended by someone wearing red, white and blue cleats, but I could see certain things that someone might do that could offend some people." ESPN's Mike Golic asked, "As a player, do you need to take it to that extreme? Some players feel they need to do that. They do it because they want to be patriotic, they do it because they want the attention, who knows what the reason could be. This is such an emotional thing, what this weekend stands for. The league’s response will be interesting to me.” Greenberg said he believes the NFL will "do what they always do: I think they will very quietly fine Lance Briggs and any other players that do things like that.” But he added that all "fine money gathered for that day should go to 9/11 charities” ("Mike & Mike in the Morning," ESPN Radio, 9/9).
As the '11 NFL season kicked off Thursday night, a study by SportsBusiness Daily shows that fewer than a dozen top-level NFL team execs are confirmed to be on Twitter. Colts Owner Jim Irsay’s quirky and candid posts quickly made him a must-follow after he joined the social media site last year, and that is reflected by his more than 59,000 followers. But so far the vast majority of his peers -- owners, team presidents, GMs and Exec VPs -- have chosen not to follow in his footsteps. That low number comes after a recent poll from Turkey Sports & Entertainment that found 70% of all sports execs are not on Twitter. While a notable number of NFL league officials are on Twitter, from Commissioner Roger Goodell to Senior VP/PR Greg Aiello, few team owners and execs have followed suit. Irsay is one of just three NFL team owners confirmed by SBD to be on Twitter, along with Woody Johnson (Jets) and Paul Allen (Seahawks). On the business side, only two top-level team execs -- Jets Exec VP/Business Operations Matt Higgins and Lions President Tom Lewand -- have active Twitter handles, while a handful of their counterparts in football operations have confirmed accounts. Broncos Exec VP/Football Operations John Elway, who tweeted just 12 times in August, leads all front-office personnel with more than 103,000 followers. A few NFL team execs appear to have accounts, including Patriots President Jonathan Kraft and Cardinals President Michael Bidwill, but those could not be verified. The following list shows confirmed Twitter handles and relevant data for NFL team execs at the owner, president, GM or Exec VP level, as of Sept. 7, 2011.
NFL TEAM OWNERSFOLLOWERSTWEETSLAST TWEET Colts Owner Jim Irsay59,6804,909Sept. 7 Seahawks Owner Paul Allen21,337109Aug. 31 Jets Owner Woody Johnson14,45433May 6 NFL TEAM EXECSFOLLOWERSTWEETSLAST TWEET Broncos Exec VP/Football
Operations John Elway103,159117Sept. 6
Jets Exec VP/Business Operations Matt Higgins15,2265,243Sept. 7 Falcons President & CEO Rich McKay3,43265May '09 Lions President Tom Lewand2,56415Aug. 29 Rams Exec VP/Football Operations
& COO Kevin Demoff64857Sept. 1
THERE'S NO "I" IN TEAM? In surveying NFL franchises about their organizational philosophy, most teams expressed a preference to let verified team accounts communicate the message. Several clubs, notably the Patriots (128,674 followers), Bengals (47,440) and Raiders (75,487), asserted that while individual execs are not on Twitter, they do interact on the social media platform as part of a greater franchise-wide effort. “Although our executives are not on Twitter individually, each may use (and many do use) our organizational Twitter account to disseminate messages to our fans,” Raiders Chief Exec Amy Trask wrote in an e-mail. “Sometimes those messages are tweeted with attribution (‘Amy Trask says’ or ‘message from Amy Trask’) and sometimes the content is delivered without attribution, if attribution seems unnecessary.” After the Raiders abstained from voting on the NFL’s new 10-year CBA, the only franchise to do so, the @Raiders account posted several comments attributed to Trask. “We have profound philosophical differences on a number of issues -- both of a football and economic nature,” one tweet read. Higgins sees the benefit of engaging on a personal level with fans. “We have a deep commitment to transparency and engagement, so if you’re going to talk to the talk, you’ve got to walk the walk at the highest levels of the organization,” Higgins said. “Fans say they want to connect with teams and personalities. … The benefits (of Twitter) far outweigh the negatives.” Higgins also cited the value of immediate interaction with fans, who hold him accountable for both his actions and those of the Jets.
BALANCING ACT: The benefit of being on Twitter varies for NFL team execs, depending on what side of franchise operations they handle, said David Katz, Founder & CEO of SportsFanLive.com and ThePostGame.com. "If you look at player personnel -- general managers and coaches -- you might not see a lot of them on while they're actively in those roles," Katz said. "Those jobs are really all about information secrecy, and the idea of having an ongoing dialogue with a fan base ... is not something that's in the job description." But for team officials not involved directly in football operations, especially owners, it's a different story. "I think there may be a generational gap there," Katz said. "Maybe they don't feel comfortable (on Twitter). Maybe they're not as technology focused, maybe they have other things they'd rather be doing with their time." Still, Katz added, "I think it's, quite frankly, a missed opportunity. ... If you look at the team owners, I think fans who love these teams and want every bit of information about these teams, should feel as though they have access to the owner. Even if that's the owner putting out a handful of tweets occasionally, responding to fan questions when they see fit, it would go a long way toward continuing to build that bond and that loyalty that fans have with the franchises they love."
Two new Bud Light ads "were scheduled to debut" during NBC's broadcast of Saints-Packers Thursday, the latest sign of Anheuser-Busch returning as the league's official beer sponsor this season, according to Todd Frankel of the ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH. The two ads "feel familiar -- light and humorous," but featured a new promo, the "Ultimate Fan Experience," which "offers prizes with a social media twist." The promo "involves using a smartphone to take a picture of a special logo on the packaging" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 9/9). Coors Light has been the league's official beer since '02, and AD AGE's E.J. Schultz noted MillerCoors "can still run ads during games, just as A-B did." Coors Light "has shelved its long-running press conference campaign featuring former coaches, but is keeping the coaches on its roster, with a new execution featuring them in miniature form interacting with fans." The ads are by "longtime agency" DraftFCB, while Razorfish "is handling digital, which includes a 'pick 'em' game on Facebook" (ADAGE.com, 9/8).
JUMPING IN HEAD FIRST: Bud Light is offering a promo in which consumers can enter the "Ultimate Fan Experience" through NFL-themed Snap Tags on specially marked Bud Light 12-pack bottle cases and POS materials. Fans that enter are eligible to win one of five prizes, including trips to Super Bowl XLVI and the '12 Pro Bowl. The effort runs through Jan. 15. Meanwhile, Bud Light Thursday also launched "The Bud Light Huddle," a new online community for adult NFL fans that offers digital content and a platform to interact with other NFL fans across the country (THE DAILY).
The Patriots and JetBlue are finalizing an agreement that will make the airline the title sponsor of the team’s new pregame show that airs on Facebook. The deal will mark JetBlue's first association with the Patriots, and the two sides are in the process of finalizing creatives in time for Monday's season opener against the Dolphins. The show, which debuted as “Patriots Pre-Game Social” during the preseason, is also available on the team’s official app for iPhone, Android and BlackBerry smartphones, and via the club's mobile website. It is hosted by “Patriots Football Weekly” editors Paul Perillo and Andy Hart and airs two hours prior to each week's kickoff. The concept of an online program is not new for the Patriots. The team has been broadcasting a show on the Web for well over a decade, according to Patriots Dir of Interactive Media Fred Kirsch. What makes this new initiative unique is the incorporation of social media. Fans can listen to the show while posting comments, voting on a poll or flipping through a fan photo gallery. The Facebook page already has almost 2.5 million “likes,” and fans have tuned in during the preseason. The team averaged 3,000-4,000 live listeners and 50,000 on-demand listeners for the first four broadcasts. Kirsch said that while he is pleased with those numbers, he expects them to triple during the regular season. He also expects the broadcasts to continue to run smoothly after experiencing a few kinks during the first show. Facebook posts during that initial broadcast did not automatically refresh, and when users reloaded the page, they lost the audio stream. The Patriots worked with N.Y.-based social media company Buddy Media to fix the issues and implement a free-flowing chat system that doesn’t require users to refresh. Kirsch said feedback has been positive. “The fans are loving it,” he said.
LAUNCHING PAD: The team will soon launch a “Patriots Football Daily” premium app for the iPad and Android’s Honeycomb tablet that will cost $19.99. The app will be included in the cost of a "Patriots Football Weekly" subscription and will feature the entire magazine. Content will also include news, video and audio from Patriots.com. “I think that is going to be a trendsetter,” said Kirsch. “I think a lot of teams are going to look at that and say, ‘We want that, too.’”
A sneak preview of NFL Films' upcoming special on Patriots coach Bill Belichick showed that the "anticipation is rewarded," and NFL Films "in its usual way ... has gotten Belichick right," according to Chad Finn of the BOSTON GLOBE. The two-part "Bill Belichick: A Football Life" will air on NFL Network Sept. 15, and the first episode begins with the words, "If you think you know Bill Belichick, think again." Immediately following is a "prolonged scene of the Belichick we certainly don't know, relaxed and barefoot and fishing on his boat off the Nantucket coast." While a "skeptic may wonder about Belichick's motives" for allowing NFL Films to put a microphone on him throughout the '09 season, one reason "is obvious: his well-documented affinity for the sport and its history." There is enough "insight and candor to believe in the genuineness of Belichick's intentions." NFL Films not only "documents legacies, but in some instances it has created them," and there is "an element of shrewdness in Belichick allowing himself to become the first person miked by NFL Films for an NFL season." But, the motives "are pure enough, and his is a legacy worth documenting." For "football junkies, the biggest thrills and chills come when his coaching acumen is on full display, whether it's with his son Brian ... or when he's rapid-fire quizzing his team on specific game situations." There is also "repeated confirmation of his oft-rumored dry sense of humor." The moments when Belichick is "engulfed in football minutiae" with Patriots QB Tom Brady stand out. But Finn writes the episode also "reminds us of what we already knew about Bill Belichick: He's an extraordinarily prepared coach with a knack for making smart football decisions" (BOSTON GLOBE, 9/9).
UNDERNEATH THE HOODIE: In Boston, Ian Rapoport writes the "portrait painted of Belichick leaves you with a supreme understanding of simply, how he leads his football team." Rapoport: "You don't leave the viewing thinking that the point was to show you, here's why Belichick is the best ever, yada yada. ... You come away with a sincere respect not only for what he goes through and how he approaches the team, but how every coach lives" (BOSTONHERALD.com, 9/9). CABLEFAX DAILY writes, "Belichick is less phlegmatic than his rep and emerges as a decent fellow with an occasional dry wit. Besides the access, what's most impressive is hearing and watching him dissect an upcoming game" (CABLEFAX DAILY, 9/9).
EMOTIONAL ROLLER COASTER: ESPN.com's Mike Reiss wrote one of the "more powerful moments came when Belichick reflected on his days with the Giants, touring old Giants Stadium before the team's Week 2 game against the Jets that season." Reiss: "He chokes up. Some of the memories were from behind the scenes, such as racquetball games against Bill Parcells." Throughout the episode there are "plenty of other interesting nuggets," like hearing Belichick "trash-talking with then-Ravens receiver Derrick Mason during a Week 4 game, with some we're-going-to-have-to-bleep-this-out language." Viewers also discover Belichick "wanted to avoid a postgame handshake with Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels, his former offensive coordinator, so he embraced him before the game and told him they'd just wave afterward" (ESPN.com, 9/7).
FoxSports.com has significantly updated its NFL GameTrax gametracker. Essentially left alone for five years, the new GameTrax features a heavy graphic integration with Fox Sports' broadcast elements, Twitter aggregation and faster data updates. The update also puts GameTrax in a much more competitive position against NFL.com, ESPN.com and other rival sites with more graphically enhanced NFL gametrackers. "This was a page that was in desperate need of an upgrade," said FoxSports.com VP/Products Ryan Kuttler. "We've now got something much more engaging, and something that also provides us some additional sponsor inventory." Lexus is the lead sponsor for GameTrax for the second consecutive year.
The Cowboys for the fifth straight year rank as the "most valuable team" in the NFL, increasing 2% in value from last year to $1.85B, according to Kurt Badenhausen as part of FORBES' annual NFL valuations. The team earned $119M in operating income last season, "the most in the NFL for a second straight year." Cowboys Stadium "continues to be a gold mine" for team Owner Jerry Jones. The 320 suites and 15,000 club seats at the stadium "generate $115 million in revenue annually." The Cowboys are followed on the list by the Redskins, who remained even with the previous year at $1.55B. The Giants and Jets saw their values rise 10% and 7% respectively, in the inaugural season of their shared stadium. The Giants also saw premium seating revenue "jump from $8 million to more than $50 million," while the Jets "doubled sponsorship revenues to $35 million annually." Badenhausen noted the average NFL team value is $1.04B, up 1.4% over last year. Average revenues for the 32 teams "rose 4% compared with the previous season, to $261 million." Operating income fell 8.1% to an average of $30.6M per team, which Badenhausen noted was "due to higher costs for stadium operations, training facilities and marketing." But the new NFL CBA "will give owners a bigger slice of overall revenue." Also, the league's current TV deals with CBS, ESPN, Fox and NBC are set to expire in '13, and owners "are expecting increases up to 60% on the current $3.1 billion average annual value of those deals" (FORBES.com, 9/7).RKTEAMVALUE1-YR
BREAKING IT DOWN: FORBES' Patrick Rishe analyzed the '11 NFL valuations to determine which franchises: 1) have been the most "economically savvy over the last 10 years;" 2) have seen "the largest changes in their fortunes in just the last 3 seasons compared to their decade trend;" and 3) have seen the "largest changes in fortune when comparing their 2010 and 2009 campaigns" (FORBES.com, 9/7).
POWERHOUSE POTENTIAL: FORBES' Jeff Bercovici noted the Packers are an "emerging financial power in the NFL." Despite their "minuscule market, revenues for fiscal 2010 hit an alltime high of $259 million, 11th out of 32 teams and well above major-market franchises" like the 49ers and the Falcons. The Packers' Super Bowl XLV win, combined with upcoming stadium enhancements and the new NFL CBA "will make them stronger still." National Football Post President Andrew Brandt said, "They're an anomaly. They're clearly the smallest-market team in all of professional sports, yet they're a high-revenue team with no debt. There are a lot of big-market teams that wish they had that kind of financial situation" (FORBES.com, 9/7).
CALIFORNIA DREAMS: In L.A., Jim Peltz noted the Forbes report indicated that if the Chargers relocate to the L.A. area, the franchise "could see its value jump by at least $200 million," or 21.7%. That would "lift the Chargers' value to $1.12 billion and make it the eighth most valuable NFL team based on Forbes' latest ranking." USC Sports Business Institute Exec Dir David Carter said, "Any team relocating to Los Angeles would likely find itself in the top quartile of teams" in terms of NFL valuations (L.A. TIMES, 9/8).
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said Thursday that he "was impressed with plans to expand Lambeau Field" by the start of the '13 season, according to Don Walker of the MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL. Goodell noted that he "had seen the plans to add as many as 6,600 seats on the south end-zone area of Lambeau Field." Goodell: "I think it's great and responsive to the fans. And that's more general admission seats." The commissioner was a "little more circumspect about one aspect of the financing plan." The Packers have said that they "are considering seeking NFL permission to have a stock sale as part of the financing plan." Goodell said that he is "aware of the stock sale request, and said the matter would have to go through a few NFL committees before a decision is made" (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 9/9).
ROCK ON: In Green Bay, Richard Ryman noted the "big-party atmosphere infusing the area" around Lambeau Field before Thursday night's Saints-Packers season opener is something the Packers "would like to see" more often throughout the year. Talk of a Titletown Entertainment District "has been swirling since the renovation of Lambeau Field in 2003, but there are no definitive plans as yet." The Packers "are spending $143 million to expand Lambeau Field by 6,600 seats, add new entrances and make other improvements, and have talked of developing the east parking lot." But for now, the team "is focusing on the recently announced project." The Packers have said that "development outside the boundaries of Lambeau Field, even on land the team owns, will rely in part on collaboration with Green Bay, Ashwaubenon and Brown County" (GREEN BAY PRESS-GAZETTE, 9/8).
AEG's proposed Farmers Field in downtown L.A. would have an estimated 200 suites and 15,000 club seats, setting the venue up for annual potential premium seating revenue of $122.5M, according to data from consulting firm Conventions, Sports & Leisure Int’l. The venue's proposed number of suites would rank only behind Cowboys Stadium, MetLife Stadium and FedExField. Only FedExField would have more total club seats. Cowboys Stadium topped all NFL venues last year in terms of total potential premium seating revenue with $137.9M, while the Metrodome ranked last with only $7.8M. Gillette Stadium and EverBank Field have the fewest number of suites in the league. Listed below is an overview of NFL stadium premium seating from '10, with venues ranked by potential revenue from those seats (THE DAILY).
TEAM VENUESUITESAVG. FEECLUB SEATSAVG. FEEPOTENTIAL REVENUE Cowboys Cowboys Stadium300$300,00014,102$3,400$137.9M Giants* MetLife Stadium213$494,0009,236$4,760$96.6M Jets* MetLife Stadium213$494,00010,041$3,840$91.2M Redskins FedExField208$151,00017,263$3,350$89.4M Buccaneers Raymond James Stadium197$105,00012,053$2,750$53.8M Texans Reliant Stadium185$156,0008,464$2,700$51.6M Patriots Gillette Stadium80$188,0006,460$5,000$47.3M Dolphins Sun Life Stadium195$97,00010,470$2,640$46.5M Eagles Lincoln Financial Field171$143,0008,447$2,340$44.2M Bears Soldier Field133$151,0008,376$2,801$43.6M Panthers Bank of America Stadium157$92,00011,223$2,110$38.1M Ravens M&T Bank Stadium122$138,0008,108$2,420$36.5M Colts Lucas Oil Stadium140$127,0007,264$2,510$36.1M Broncos Sports Authority Field At Mile High115$123,0007,749$2,790$35.8M Jaguars EverBank Field89$110,00011,692$1,970$32.8M Titans LP Field171$78,00011,682$1,590$31.9M Steelers** Heinz Field129$99,0008,100$2,300$29.9M Falcons Georgia Dome171$122,0006,180$1,874$29.6M Seahawks CenturyLink Field112$105,0007,826$2,180$28.8M Chargers Qualcomm Stadium113$110,0007,668$2,120$28.7M Bengals Paul Brown Stadium132$116,0007,793$1,680$28.3M Browns Browns Stadium145$81,0008,345$1,970$28.1M Packers Lambeau Field166$79,0006,089$2,368$27.5M Saints Louisiana Superdome137$80,0008,593$1,880$27.1M Cardinals Univ. of Phoenix Stadium108$99,0007,356$2,101$26.2M Bills Ralph Wilson Stadium132$82,0008,831$1,650$25.3M Chiefs Arrowhead Stadium111$123,0007,715$1,400$24.4M Lions Ford Field127$96,0007,312$1,509$23.2M Rams Edward Jones Dome101$100,0006,692$1,720$21.6M Raiders O.Co Coliseum143$70,0005,552$1,400$17.8M 49ers Candlestick Park95$110,000n/an/a$10.5M Vikings Metrodome99$68,000242$4,500$7.8M
NOTES: * = Suites for the Giants and Jets are sold together, with potential revenue split evenly. ** = The Steelers have a total of 129 suites, but 15 are non-revenue generating. Suite revenue listed reflects only those revenue-generating suites.
The NFL has 3.8 million Facebook likes and 2.3 million Twitter followers as the '11 season gets underway. Among individual clubs, the Cowboys and Steelers lead all teams on Facebook with 3.5 million likes and 2.9 million likes, respectively. In all, 11 NFL teams have over 1 million Facebook likes. The Jets and Patriots top all clubs in terms of Twitter followers with 188,731 followers and 128,674 followers, respectively. Only four NFL clubs have topped 100,000 Twitter followers thus far (THE DAILY).NFL TEAMS' FACEBOOK LIKES,
TWITTER FOLLOWERS THROUGH SEPT. 7
TEAM TEAM 49ers779,78669,777 Jaguars204,62720,017 Bears1,891,17462,842 Jets987,064188,731 Bengals441,87247,440 Lions439,03443,270 Bills277,12936,844 Packers1,916,64997,437 Broncos795,03659,555 Panthers294,62729,907 Browns330,04247,596 Patriots2,443,612128,674 Buccaneers352,68829,231 Raiders1,097,16575,487 Cardinals329,36110,893 Rams122,29624,564 Chargers900,40175,578 Ravens653,67446,135 Chiefs493,49041,564 Redskins675,18437,076 Colts1,466,62417,832 Saints2,072,93474,691 Cowboys3,470,557118,499 Seahawks570,39445,586 Dolphins851,94068,631 Steelers2,858,532127,514 Eagles1,270,78979,908 Texans349,32036,415 Falcons186,76158,712 Titans240,13041,114 Giants1,243,42748,210 Vikings1,124,09361,558
NOTES: Charts reflect the number of Facebook likes and Twitter followers as of Sept. 7. The respective sites tracked were those sites identified as official sites by the teams. Many teams have multiple sites used to reach fans, including sites created by front-office personnel.