Saturday, March 12, 2011
What the Potential NFL Labor Strike Means for TV
You might not have heard that yesterday the NFL players union decertified. This means that it no longer represents the players in collective bargaining. More importantly however, it means that the NFL could head into it's first labor dispute since 1987. The owners could call a lockout as soon as Monday. A lockout could have a major affect on the league, who's 2011 Super Bowl had 111 million viewers watching. NFL games bring in huge ratings, and this could have a huge affect on the TV landscape. After the jump, find out what the labor issues could means for the networks who broadcast the NFL.
There are four networks who broadcast the NFL on a weekly basis. CBS and FOX broadcast Sunday afternoon games, NBC gets Sunday night games, and ESPN airs Monday night games. All four of these networks' ratings will be affected if the lockout happens at all, especially if the season is cancelled because of it.
For CBS and FOX a lockout could mean losing a major revenue stream. The Sunday afternoon games that they broadcast make huge money for the networks. While most of that goes towards paying off the huge license fee that they pay in order to broadcast the games, they do make a substantial amount of money on the games. It would be a major hit to the networks to lose the games. It also gets rid of a major promotional platform for them. NFL games start right as the networks are in the middle of their marketing campaigns for the new shows. It wouldn't be awful for them to lose their promotion platforms because the networks are largely successful on their own, but it would mean losing a major launch platform for their new shows.
For ESPN it would mean losing major ratings on Monday night. The games do very, very well for them so it would mostly be a revenue and ratings loss. It probably wouldn't have a huge affect on the network but it would definitely have an affect on the revenue for the network.
The network that this would be the worst for is easily NBC. Sunday Night Football is the networks biggest draw, so to lose that would be awful for a network that is in the middle of trying to rise from the depths. It is really the only thing that is huge for them on a weekly basis in the fall. It would be a terrible ratings hit for the network, who relies on this to help bring up the network's ratings during the season. It would also mean the loss of a MAJOR promotional platform for the network. Football is one of the few promotional platforms that the network has left, and to lose that would be terrible for the network. It's what helped Chuck and The Event launch to really high ratings (they didn't keep those ratings, but the promotion definitely helped them launch). Like I said, NBC is trying to rebuild their network. To lose what would certainly be the center of their efforts to rebuild would be terrible for the network. They are probably going to try to launch a bunch of new shows next year, and the loss of football wouldn't help.
The networks will have to put something in place of football. For CBS and FOX that would probably be local programming decided upon by the affiliates. It won't be too much trouble for them to reprogram football, they'll probably air what they do in the spring, after football ends. For ESPN, they'll have to find something, but I don't know what they'll do. For NBC, they'll probably put in repeats or cheap reality, like they do in the winter. I could imagine them renewing one of their lower rated shows, such as Chuck as emergency filler. It wouldn't be a replacement for football, but a replacement for some of the new shows that are doomed to fail. Like I said, losing football has a huge affect on the marketing platform for the network.
For everything above I'm really talking in hypotheticals, there has been no lockout and there's a chance that football will be played next year. What I think is going to happen is part of the season is cut off and only some of the games are played. I'm really talking in hypotheticals, but these are hypotheticals that have a huge affect on the TV world.
What does everyone else think? What