Commentary

Should Poor NFL Teams With Low TV Ratings Be Demoted?

In discussing this season’s soft NFL TV ratings, one might blame weak early-season competitive team match-ups as a reason, or just poor individual team performances overall.

Here’s a thought: If they continue with poor results, should these teams get placed in “lower” competitive leagues, resulting in new TV awareness for the NFL? This does happen in other sports -- though not in the U.S.

CNBC's “Closing Bell” co-anchor Wilfred Frost, born and bred in the United Kingdom, offered an analysis after hearing that in 2017, the NFL distributed a record $8.1 billion equally to its 32 teams from national TV/media deals -- following declining TV ratings last season, per Bloomberg,

“It’s an enormously profitable [sports] franchise,” Frost said on CNBC. Overall, NFL 2017 revenue was also up -- to $14.1 billion, with a league goal of getting to $25 billion in 2027.

Frost added: “It’s sort of a bit of a fix. No one [team] gets relegated [emphasis added]. It’s just those teams that stay in there. It’s a valuable thing to own, even if it is not growing as quickly as it once was.”

Relegated? Frost was alluding to what happens in many European-based sports, such as U.K.’s Premier League football (soccer, in the U.S.) where poor performing teams get placed in lower divisions while, at the same time, stronger teams in those divisions can get elevated. 

This can also be found in other sports, such as professional road-cycling teams -- the ones that go to the Tour de France. Teams can be dropped/raised to designations — from the top World Tour to lessor Pro Continental or Continental, depending performance and other factors.

But as owners of NFL teams, this kind of deduction is never possible. And all performing teams -- no matter how well they do -- get a equal share of national TV revenues. That said, NFL teams still have to deal with the vagaries of in-stadium ticket/concession sales and local TV advertising revenues.

Still, NFL teams -- no matter their on-field performance -- can maintain high market value.

A few months ago, David Tepper, a billionaire hedge-fund entrepreneur, bought the Carolina Panthers for an NFL-record $2.2 billion. Four years ago, the Buffalo Bills were sold for $1.1 billion; Cleveland Browns in 2012, went for $1 billion.

Consider if a team -- which hasn’t had a winning record in a few years -- didn’t just suffer from fan apathy and lower in-stadium revenues, but got placed in some lower “B” pro league.

At the same time, what if there existed an up-and-coming professional football team, possibly not connected with the NFL -- that could, in fact, be competitive? Crazy? Sure.

Still, motivation and fan interest/curiosity would be high, especially for players and coaches looking to make an impact.

The NFL does compete with other entertainment/media programming. Perhaps a little more dramatic risk-competition would shake things up.

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