NFL football is still the best TV sport – I say this not simply because it remains by far the highest-rated sport.
Since each team plays just one game per week, each game is significantly more important than a single game in any other sport. This also makes it the best sport for the average fan to gamble on.
Fantasy football: Watching NFL games or the Red Zone channel enables fans to get all the scores and statistics for every player throughout the NFL. The league has geared itself to satisfying fantasy players like no other TV sport.
Parity: The NFL is designed (through revenue sharing and salary caps) to enable small-market teams to compete with teams in larger markets. It is the only sport where you typically see teams going from last to first place in one season.
For example, in 2017, five of the eight divisions had different leaders than the previous season. In each of the past three seasons, the team that won the NFC East was in last place the previous year (including the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles). During the final month of the season, more teams in more markets are in playoff contention than in any other sport. This obviously helps maintain interest.
Promotional malpractice still reigns – While viewers tend to see television as program-driven, our industry largely still sees the video world as channel-based silos. This antiquated perception continues to control the upfront process and the buying and selling of commercial time. It also results in the broadcast networks continuing to see only one another as true competitors, when they should see themselves as allies.
Cable networks long ago realized that cross-promotion works, and when some cable networks increase viewership, they all benefit because more money will shift from broadcast to cable. The broadcast networks need to understand that when a “This is Us” or “The Good Doctor” become hits, they all benefit because it reminds advertisers that, except for the occasional “Walking Dead” type hit, nothing can really compete with the broadcast networks’ ability to generate strong ratings and high reach.
I bring this up because NBC allowed its real major competition, the streaming services, to advertise during the big game — including Netflix’s new original movie, “The Cloverfield Paradox,” which was being made available immediately after the game (the same time NBC’s own series “This is Us” was scheduled). Meanwhile, none of the other broadcast networks were allowed to promote their series.
It doesn’t matter if Netflix original movies are good – The last two major original movies on Netflix, “Bright” and “The Cloverfield Paradox,” received poor reviews from critics and viewers alike. But at this stage, it doesn’t matter. These are not series pilots, which will cause viewers to avoid subsequent episodes if they dislike the first one. Instead, these are one-time movies, which, if branded well, can draw both new subscribers and strong viewership.
The former starred the popular Will Smith, the latter had the Cloverfield brand (the first two Cloverfield theatrical movies were popular). Despite the perceived low quality of these efforts, there is already a second “Bright” movie in the works, and subsequent movies should not be negatively affected by previous efforts. These movies will continue to help grow Netflix’s subscriber base.
Live viewing still matters – The bulk of my wife’s and my (along with more than half the country’s) prime-time viewing is time-shifted via DVR. As a result, we have not seen many of the commercials that have aired on television for the past year.
But we were exposed to almost every commercial during the Super Bowl, and I still remember most of them. Big live events such as the Super Bowl, Academy Awards, and Olympics were always prime advertising vehicles --but in today’s video environment, with commercial avoidance easier than ever, they are more valuable to advertisers than ever.