SBJ/January 30-February 5, 2012/Super Bowl

The season that was

Looking back on some of the business highlights of the 2011-12 NFL season

March 12
■ The NFL lockout begins, shortly after the NFL Players Association decertifies and funds an antitrust lawsuit against the league.

“At his heart Roger can be a cold son of a bitch. I think the people on the other side of the negotiating table are going to hear that in the coming months.”
— Former NBC Sports Group Chairman Dick Ebersol, on NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell (Feb. 3)

April 28
■ NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, upon taking the stage before the start of the NFL draft, is greeted by a wave of boos, followed by a chant of “We want football!” as fans in attendance voice their displeasure over the lack of a new labor deal.

April 28-29
Ryan Mundy arrives at the Pittsburgh Steelers’ training facility in April after a court ruling briefly forces the league to open team facilities to players. The lockout resumed a day later.
Photo by: Getty Images

■ The league briefly allows players into team facilities, but not to practice, as it jockeys back and forth with the union over a court ruling that ordered the league to end the lockout. The league quickly gets a stay on that ruling and resumes the lockout.

May 8
■ The Green Bay Packers say they hope to begin construction on an expansion of the south end-zone area at historic Lambeau Field after the Super Bowl in February. The plan calls for adding as many as 7,500 seats. Later in the year, the team sells stock to raise money for the project.

May 16
■ The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issues a stay that confirms the league’s lockout and pushes players back toward the negotiating table.

June 1
■ In what would be the first in a series of “secret meetings,” the NFL and players renew talks.

“Can you tell we’re in a lockout? We’re watching Chris Cooley make a bowl out of clay. This is what’s happening.”
— NFL Network’s Rich Eisen, on the Redskins tight end molding clay on a spinning wheel on set (June 3)

July 21
■ The NFL cancels the Pro Football Hall of Fame Game, originally set for Aug. 7, as labor negotiations continue. The game would prove to be the only casualty of the 2011-12 season caused by the labor dispute.

“We believe we have an agreement. Now it’s up to the players.”
— NFL Giants President and CEO John Mara (July 22)


July 25
DeMaurice Smith and Roger Goodell announce that they have reached a deal.
Photo by: Getty Images

■ The players vote in favor of a deal that would end all litigation against the league, bring forth a new CBA and end the lockout.
■ Despite the labor situation, television ad sales around the fall’s NFL games skyrocket to record levels, with between 80 percent and 90 percent of the regular-season ad inventory sold.

July 26
■ Players and owners start a crazy week, squeezing all the offseason activity that the league missed — free agency, trades, cuts to get under the salary cap, signings of rookies as well as undrafted free agents — into one week while teams open training camps.

Aug. 11
■ The 2011-12 season gets under way with five preseason games.

Aug. 22
■ Agents complete the wildest, and definitely shortest, NFL player signing period ever. CAA Football alone, in a 12-day period, negotiated $606.8 million worth of deals.

“I averaged about two to three hours of sleep, once the gates opened. I remember having a conversation with a superstar player and a head coach at 4 in the morning.”
— Agent Joel Segal, who said he negotiated $147 million in about four days during this year’s signing period (Aug. 22)


Aug. 23
MetLife scores a massive naming-rights deal for the home of the New York Jets and Giants.
Photo by: Getty Images

■ MetLife formally announces a 25-year naming-rights deal at New Meadowlands Stadium valued at $17 million to $20 million per year. The company originally was one of the stadium’s cornerstone partners.

Aug. 29
■ USAA signs a four-year deal as the NFL’s new insurance sponsor.

Sept. 5
■ The NFL announces the renewal of its partnership with PepsiCo with a new agreement that will take effect in 2012.
■ Marriott International announces it has signed a multiyear deal to be the league’s exclusive lodging category sponsor.

Sept. 8
The Green Bay Packers are introduced at Lambeau Field in their season-opening game against the New Orleans Saints.
Photo by: Getty Images

■ The regular season gets under way, with the Green Bay Packers defeating the New Orleans Saints on a Thursday night matchup. The game attracts 27.2 million viewers and earns a 16.0 rating.
■ ESPN and the NFL sign an eight-year extension to their media rights agreement that is worth $1.9 billion per year, a whopping 63 percent increase over the average price of the current deal.
■ The upcoming season marks Reebok’s 10th and final year as the NFL’s exclusive on-field jersey and cap rights holder. Those rights will shift to Nike and New Era beginning with the 2012-13 season.
■ Two new Bud Light ads debut as Anheuser-Busch returns as the league’s official beer sponsor.

Oct. 4
■ The New Orleans Saints and Mercedes-Benz reach a 10-year naming-rights agreement for the 36-year-old Louisiana Superdome. Sources value the deal between $50 million and $60 million.

Oct. 17
■ The NFL is planning to form a more than $32 million venture capital fund to invest in startup media, technology and entertainment businesses that tie into football.

Oct. 31
■ NFL teams will start using hand-held metal detectors to upgrade the screening process at all 31 stadiums.

Nov. 7
■ The league outlines plans for NFL House, a high-end, drop-in facility for business partners that will debut during Super Bowl week in Indianapolis.

“We’re providing not just a game, but an experience, so it’s about how we make the experience better to a number of constituencies. We wanted to make our business partners feel better taken care of.”
— Frank Supovitz,
NFL senior vice president of events, on plans for NFL House (Nov. 7)


Nov. 21
■ More than a decade after launching a league-branded magazine that folded after about three years, the NFL reaches a licensing agreement with a relatively unknown publisher, Dauphin Media Group, to produce NFL Magazine.

Nov. 24
■ The Thanksgiving Day Miami Dolphins-Dallas Cowboys game averages 30.9 million viewers, marking the most viewed regular-season game of 2011 and most viewed CBS Thanksgiving game since the network acquired the AFC package in 1998.
■ NFL Network averages 10.7 million viewers for the San Francisco 49ers-Baltimore Ravens Thanksgiving night game, marking the network’s most viewed telecast in its eight-year history and helping the network earn its most viewed season yet of live NFL games.

Dec. 13
■ Santa Clara leaders endorse a deal to fund and build a new San Francisco 49ers stadium, clearing the way for the project to begin once the NFL commits to finance at least $150 million toward the stadium.

Dec. 14
Ratings continue to roll as the league cashes in on new media rights deals.
Photo by: Getty Images

■ NFL owners formally approve nine-year extensions of their TV agreements with CBS, Fox and NBC through 2022. The collective increase for the three networks is 7 percent per year throughout the deal. Fox will pay an average annual fee of $1.1 billion, while CBS pays $1.0 billion and NBC $950 million.
■ NFL owners approve the transfer of ownership of the Jacksonville Jaguars from Wayne Weaver to Shahid Khan, in a deal valued at $760 million.

Dec. 21
■ The Miami Dolphins will soon start searching for a new stadium naming-rights partner after Sun Life Financial announces it is leaving the U.S. The Sun Life Stadium name will be gone within three years, when the team’s deal with the financial firm expires.

Jan. 1
■ NBC averages 27.6 million viewers for the Dallas Cowboys-New York Giants “Sunday Night Football” finale, marking the network’s most viewed regular-season prime-time game ever and the NFL’s most viewed regular-season prime-time game in 15 years.
■ Fox averaged 20.1 million viewers for its NFL regular-season games in 2011, tied with last season as its most viewed NFL season yet. The network’s 12.0 average rating was its highest since 1995.

Jan. 15
■ The four NFL Divisional playoff games across CBS and Fox averaged 36.6 million viewers, marking the most viewed NFL Divisional weekend ever.

Jan. 22
■ The Conference Championship games between the Baltimore Ravens and New England Patriots, and the San Francisco 49ers and New York Giants, average 53.7 million viewers across Fox and CBS, marking the largest Conference Championship Sunday audience in 30 years.

Source: SportsBusiness Journal and SportsBusiness Daily archives


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