The NFL is America’s most profitable television production. It dominates weekly television ratings each fall and completely takes over more than a third of American television sets on a day in early February each year. In 1939, NBC became the first network to televise a live professional football game. The Philadelphia Eagles game against the Brooklyn Dodgers was filmed with two cameras and a staff of 8. They reached 1000 television sets in New York City. Today NFL games drag in an audience of over 17 million viewers for an average regular season game. The Super Bowl has since become the de facto holiday that continues to attract more and more fans each year. Each game is a major broadcast that costs anywhere from $150,000 to $200,000 to produce. Games are shot with around 12 to 20 cameras and require a staff of 150 to 200 people.
Despite a great amount of rising success, several experts believe that the NFL’s popularity can’t sustain more than fifty years before it diminishes to a small yet passionate handful of fans. Mark Cuban has stated that he believes the NFL’s greed will be its downfall. Football games that were originally only shown on Sundays have since been scheduled to appear on television Mondays and Thursdays as well. Cuban believes that Americans will become desensitized to football and will ultimately stop watching. Cuban is also among one of the half a million Americans who have decided that they would not want their child playing football for safety concerns. Many experts today believe that the downfall of football will come at the hands of its ongoing concussion issue.
In 2010, under heavy pressure from the neurologists and the public, the NFL acknowledged that multiple concussions, which are common in football, can greatly increase one’s chances of developing a severe brain disease called Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). The symptoms of CTE include dementia, memory loss, and depression as well as being linked to the deaths of several former NFL players including Dave Duerson, Junior Seau, and Tom McHale. To date, researchers with the Department of Veteran Affairs and Boston University have identified CTE in 96% of NFL players brains analyzed. The issue of concussion is a threat to the popularity of the NFL which may experience a lack of talent if 50% of Americans do not want their children playing football. Despite all of this, after examining the situation in depth, I personally do not believe that football will ever die out in America. At least not in the next century. Here’s why…
In the past decade we have learned so much about the human brain. We now understand concussions more and the impact playing a career of football really can have on people’s mental health. We have learned how to treat, prevent, and monitor concussions more recent years. The NFL continues to put significant funding towards mental research institutions every year. It would be hard to see the amount of donations the NFL makes to these centers all amount to nothing. In 2015, the NFL stated in its yearly health and safety report that concussions in regular season games had dropped by 35% over the past two seasons. Recent rule changes in the league have been penalties and fines being enforced for vicious or unnecessary hits, and dangerous hits involving helmet to helmet collisions. In 2015 the kick off line was moved up to the 35 yard line to reduce the speed of the tackles on the kickoff. Riddell explains some of the new technologies in sports that are helping to keep the game safer. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XugwfuPXngQ
Another thing working very heavily in the NFL’s favor is that football is the most marketable sport. The average NFL game lasts three hours and fifteen minutes. In that time viewers are exposed to an average of 150 thirty second commercials, that is more commercial time than an NBA and an NHL game combined. The amount of actual action however, from the snap of the ball to time the referee whistles the play dead, only adds up to about 11 minutes per game. Unlike other sports, the clock can continue to run in football even when there is no play on the field. Football in its nature gives the network more time to advertise than any other sport making it also the most profitable television production. Last year NBC’s Sunday Night Football was the most expensive place to advertise on prime time, selling thirty seconds of ad space for $665,375. Nielson reported that Sunday Night Football was America’s most watched prime time program and topped an average of 21.3 million viewers. Football will always be sensationalized and marketed better than any other sport for this reason.
In conclusion, American Football is an industry too big to fail. I predict that if it does fail, it will take no less than a century to bring down a giant marketable force like the NFL. Technology and advances in health care have come a long way making the sport much safer than it was years ago. If the NFL wants to survive it will need to address these concussion issues, a task that I believe the league is taking the right steps to accomplish. Considering the amount of money that circulates in the NFL, it is hard to see it coming to an end anytime soon.
By: Anthony Crespan
Cites and Sources
The impact of television on football
NFL ratings over the years
Timeline of the concussion issue
Money in televised football