Is The NFL Getting Too Long For The Digital World?

Well, the NFL is still alive. I will admit that I am eager to write stories about the imminent demise of pro football--it’s such a big, pompous, self-loving target--but my reports of the NFL's demise are almost always a little bit right and ultimately ridiculous. \\

Here and there, its ratings go down, but nothing big.  Except for the bars and chicken wing takeout joints, the nation will still shut down on Super Bowl Sunday far into the future.

Yet, this season, NFL prime-time ratings have really gotten whacked, possibly part of a trend.  The Sports Business Daily notes a “surprisingly consistent and worrisome decrease in sports television viewership” of all sorts for the first nine months of the year, but zeroes in on the prime-time decline for the NFL.

The NFL is the goldmine of sports. As SBD reports, “So far this year, though, each of the league’s prime-time series have posted double-digit percentage drops in viewers — a shocking situation that’s virtually unheard of for America’s top sports property.”

The story says  that “Sunday Night Football,” television’s highest-rated prime-time show, is off 10% this year. “Monday Night Football” is off 19%. “Thursday Night Football,” which always seemed the weakest tea in the NFL primetime cupboard, is down 15%.

I’ve argued before, sports is made for digital spaces, especially mobile phones.

A generation is growing up quite accustomed to little YouTube-friendly pieces of video entertainment that cut to the chase. Think about it: Where else do young people tolerate a three-hour long piece of entertainment, besides the Bruce Springsteen concert they attend with their parents?   

It's easy to keep up with NFL games on any number of sites, inclduding the NFL's. The highlights are fairly quick and fairly plentiful. You watch, you leave. Even Twitter’s new deal to show NFL Thursday night proves that.

While it has gotten audiences of 2 million or so, that stat is counting people who come and go. So far, it seems, that’s what is happening.

A simple rule of thumb might be that everything that can be made shorter will be, from attention spans to pro football games. But because the NFL is still such a huge TV draw (as the rest of prime time TV recedes), the programmer instinct is to make it longer, bigger, more fabulous, and more filled with phony, shouted excitement.

But that strategy drives a certain segment away, and in an age of more self-aware viewers, don't those NFL gamecasts come pretty close to being inadvertent parodies

The rapidly growing Whistle Sports digital empire is built on appealing to youth with video that marries the kind of pro sports their parents watch twisted into more active involvement. The segments are short enough, and un-serious enough that is the exact antithesis of what the average network sports extravaganzas looks like.

Founder John West told The Drum that says WhistleSports’s formula for reaching millennials is mobile, multi-platform, authentic, responsive -- and short. That’s what it’s all about.
1 comment about "Is The NFL Getting Too Long For The Digital World? ".
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  1. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston, October 5, 2016 at 8:46 p.m.

    According to Mike Ozanian at Forbes, the rating decline is linked in part to the #BoycottNFL movement. Clearly, it's a player's right to take a knee during the national anthem, but it's also the viewer's right to turn off the game in protest. Freedom is such a nuisance sometimes.

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