Millions of Americans watch NFL football in sports bars each week. And in 2020, in most areas of the country, sports bars will not exist. So how does the NFL plan to address this potential gap in their viewership?
First, an update. DIRECTV still has an absurd monopoly on NFL football through their Sunday Ticket platform. And for many people, in many cities, DIRECTV is simply not an option. Either (a) you don’t have ability to point the dish south or (b) your building won’t allow the dish at all. So if you happen to live in, say, Queens, and plan to watch every game, say, the Chicago Bears play, you’re facing a somewhat untenable position.
And before you start telling me about illegal streams and Playstation and Roku apps, let me tell you a quick story. A few weeks back the PGA Tour event in Dublin, Ohio started their final round early, afraid of afternoon thunderstorms. It was on Golf Channel for a few hours. Then it moved to a stream, on CBSSports.com. It wasn’t on television. Just the stream. And it caused anarchy. Twitter blew up. The Tour was burned in digital effigy. Streaming is clearly a pivotal component of professional sports moving forward, but we ain’t there yet. People don’t buy 70-inch televisions to watch the ballgame on their iPad. It’s got to be on the television.
Television made the NFL. Hopefully the league doesn’t forget that now.
And the NFL can ensure they don’t lose any of these fans by being smart right now. Bring the NFL Sunday Ticket to every single cable provider in the United States as a pay-per-view product. Allow every fan, on every provider, to buy a full season package at whatever the current DIRECTV cost is but also let them purchase individual games at $5.99 each. Get the providers to split the cash with DIRECTV so this isn’t perceived as a slight to your long-term partner. Remember, these bars being closed is going to have a huge financial impact on DIRECTV. They’re going to lose millions upon millions of dollars with no sports bar revenue. They’ll be willing to bend on this if it keeps them from breaking.
These are a pivotal next six weeks. And if the NFL doesn’t understand this coming problem, they’ll be left scrambling in September as angry fans seek out their product.