The Wall Street Journal headline pretty much said it all:
NFL: The League That Runs TV.
Yep. And there are consequences to that.
NFL owners have demonstrated one thing: They’ve got a product they know the public can’t resist, and they’re going to get every last drop of revenue they can out of it. Perhaps that’s why their protestations of poverty during the league’s lockout were so unconvincing. Anyone paying attention knew the NFL would get huge raises when its deals came up, because it’s one product the networks simply can’t do without.
Frankly, the inordinate popularity of the pro game — even compared to college football, which I find infinitely more compelling — has always been a mystery to me. But it so dwarfs every other sports commodity, the owners can be morons and still make out like bandits.
As they just did, again, to the tune of $6 billion a year when the new flurry of TV deals kicks in, beginning in 2014. And yet, they still locked out the players, insisting the economics of the game were under siege.
Moreover, in announcing the new deals NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said this is all about the fans — who he called “the biggest beneficiaries,” along with the players — even though consumers will likely wind up paying more, in a roundabout fashion, through sweetened cable fees and retransmission demands to offset the cost of football.
Like I said, that takes some balls.