Thursday, December 07, 2006

Off to a pretty good start – Roger Goodell


Earlier this week the “Roger Goodell Rocks America Tour” visited Miami the home of Super Bowl XLI, kicking off South Florida’s Super Bowl festivities. 100 days into an opportunity Goodell worked a lifetime to achieve, Roger Goodell is living his dream. At end of the day, as Goodell pointed out, business is pretty good these days for the National Football League.

“A Super Bowl unites not only this community but can also to bring this country and this world in someway, hopefully everyone comes together to enjoy a special event which we believe the NFL does better than anyone else. The Super Bowl serves as an opportunity to celebrate pride, enjoy what’s gone well in the past year and maybe if need be to forget about what hasn’t gone well at the same time.” Goodell said.

The Super Bowl has evolved into a larger than life event. With 30 second commercials being sold for more than $2 million, the game annually is among the highest rated television programs. Determining the actual economic impact from a Super Bowl is a subjective question at best. South Florida hotel rooms will be filled from January 29 to February 4, but given that the Super Bowl is being held in Miami it’s reasonable to assume most hotels in South Florida would be at near capacity during the dead of winter.

Super Bowl XXXIX held in Jacksonville was an entirely different story. Jacksonville appears ready with over 120 special events over a 10-day period culminating with the game on Feb. 6. The Jacksonville Super Bowl organizing committee believed they generated over $300 million in economic impact for the First Coast region, in addition to validating Jacksonville as a legitimate major league/mega event city. Jacksonville wanted what South Florida and Tampa had before they began hosting Super Bowl games, the perception that both areas are tourist destinations.

The Jacksonville host committee raised more than $12 million in private funds and the city kicked in close to $3 million, as well, with an additional $5 million in Super Bowl related offset with sales tax and hotel surcharge revenue alone. Security expenses for Super Bowl XXXIX cost around $6 million, with costs split between various local, county and state governments. The Coast Guard patrolled the river, which sparkled at night thanks to new lighting on four of the city's seven bridges closest to the stadium area. Jacksonville understood they might never host a Super Bowl game again and were determined to take full advantage of the opportunity.

In 2000, Jacksonville voters approved a $2.2 billion growth management plan that helped change the face of downtown. Those changes all in advance of hosting the Super Bowl included the building of a 16,000 seat arena, a minor league ballpark and a new three-mile river walking/biking/jogging trail, a library, courthouse, equestrian center, and major improvements at the zoo.

Goodell made that point home in Miami, “Clearly one of the points we want to drive home with hosting a Super Bowl is the benefits of being hosting the game and being home to an NFL franchise.”

While South Florida can look forward to hosting the Super Bowl, the Miami Dolphins with a 5-7 record appear to be heading for not only a losing season, but one where they won’t be making the playoffs.

“Its been a great season on the field, very exciting and unpredictable, that really is what we’re trying to bring forward each and every week. For a football fan, there’s nothing quite like experiencing your team going from last to first, making the playoffs and challenging for the Super Bowl. That’s what the National Football League is all about, giving you passion and creating a game everyone can be excited about.”

It has been a great year for the NFL both on and off the field. The NFL obliterated its previous sellout streak, selling out the first eleven weeks of the 2006 schedule. If not for the Buffalo Bills inability to sellout their late season games it’s reasonable to belief that the NFL might have sold out their entire season. From a television perspective with a month left in the regular season and with close to half of the teams in serious playoff contention, the amazing TV ratings the NFL has achieved this year are only going to get better.

Earlier this week NBC is no longer looking from the bottom up when it comes to network ratings, celebrated their second place overall ratings finish during the key November ratings sweep, admitting NBC owes all of its current success to Dick Ebersol’s decision to buy back into a product (the NFL) he and NBC turned their backs on in 1999 believing it wasn’t economically viable to pay the NFL for what they considered overvalued rights.

Seven years later, the embarrassment of the failed XFL behind Ebersol and the network, and $600 million a year in rights fees for Sunday Night Football NBC finished the November sweep up 15 percent versus last November in the key adults 18-49 demographic, and up 10 percent in viewers, boosting the network to a #2 finish for the month. NBC was the only network to show year-to-year growth in various key ratings categories, including adults 18-49 and total viewers, according to Nielsen Media Research.

NBC's 15 percent growth in adults 18-49 (3.8 vs. 3.3) is the network's biggest year-to-year increase in a major sweep month in more than a decade, excluding Olympics (May 1995). It's the network's biggest gain for a November sweep in People Meter History. In total viewers, NBC's 10 percent gain (10.5 million vs. 9.55 million) is the network's biggest year-to-year increase for a November sweep in People Meter History.

NBC's Sunday November average of a 6.0 in adults 18-49 is the highest rating for any network on any night during the sweep. Clearly as far as NBC executives are concerned their ability to generate advertising dollars is directly linked to the National Football League.

“In an era where there are so many choices for the consumer, NFL ratings continue to rise. Our ratings have increased for every one of our broadcast partners and needless to say we’re thrilled to be able to deliver that.” Goodell said.

There was a great deal of debate in the industry when Disney allowed ABC to walk away from Monday Night Football, but opened the door for ESPN to grab what had been ABC’s franchise program for more than 30-years. Not only did ABC bid farewell to MNF, allowing the on-air team they had developed (Al Michaels and John Madden) to leave for their competitors Sunday Night Football opportunity (NBC), but agreed to pay the NFL $1.1 billion a year for rights to Monday Night Football, which doesn’t include any playoff or Super Bowl games. Remember NBC’s $600 million annual agreement includes two Super Bowl’s during the lifetime of their current agreement.

ESPN’s numbers speak for themselves. More importantly it has extended to every aspect of ESPN’s brand.

MNF on ESPN is averaging a 10.0 rating and 9,204,000 homes (12,370,000 P2+) for 14 games in 13 weeks. These represent increases of 38%, 41% and 40%, respectively, compared to the first 13 weeks of last year's ESPN Sunday Night Football (7.2 rating, 6.529 million homes, and 8.827 million viewers).

ESPN leads all networks - cable or broadcast - in delivery of all key male demos on Mondays in primetime: men 18+, men 18-34, men 18-49 and men 25-54.

ESPN leads all cable networks in overall household delivery in primetime (an average of 2,571,000 households throughout the week).

ESPN's 14 MNF games so far are cable television's largest 14 household audiences of the year.

"Monday Night Surround" on ESPN.com

Online, ESPN.com's NFL and "Monday Night Surround" content viewed on computers and wireless devices generated more than 20 million page views Monday, up 47% over page views last year according to Web measurement tool HitBox. In addition, there were 1.65 million views of pro-football-related videos on ESPN Motion and ESPN360 on Monday (through Tuesday at noon).

The FOX Sunday national game this past Sunday December 3 (mostly Cowboys-Giants) was viewed by 27.6 million people, ranking as the most-watched NFL regular-season game since the 1999 Dolphins-Cowboys Thanksgiving Day game on CBS.

The game was also the second most-watched show of the TV season, trailing only the Nov. 15 “Dancing with the Stars” finale (27.7 million).

Goodell didn’t avoid the one ‘blemish’ on his first 100 days as NFL commissioner, the debut of live NFL games on the NFL Network. The NFL believed the three year old network would be in 65 million homes when the Denver Broncos traveled to Kansas City to meet the Chiefs on Thanksgiving Day. The NFL Network number for that game on that fateful Thursday evening – the HH% for the Broncos/Chiefs = 6.8% and 2,364,000 HH’s (Households). It was the second lowest rated NFL game in the history of televised football. While in Kansas City for the first live NFL game broadcast, Goodell revised where the NFL Network believes it’s headed in terms of its subscriber base – 50 million in a few years time. Currently the NFL network is available in 41 million homes.

“Our belief remains the NFL Network is going to offer more football and more entertainment to football fans, and that can only good.” Goodell related.

Goodell hammered home his belief that the NFL unites a community better than anything else can accomplish, extending that to include not only sports, entertainment but any industry.

“The biggest pressure I felt I’ve felt in the last few years and in the last 100 days is to ensure the National Football League doesn’t stay complacent that we continue to move forward as a business. That includes the ability to be open to change, not being afraid to move away from how we’ve done certain things for many years.”

“Those decisions included moving our cable game to Monday night with ESPN, moving our Sunday night game to network television and moving forward with our first NFL games to be televised live on the NFL Network. All of these decisions where based on our belief that it allowed the NFL to reach our fans in even better ways.” Goodell said

Goodell once again discussed why he’s so excited about the NFL’s Board of Governors October decision to move forward with one or two regular season games each year being played outside of the continental United States. The NFL is expected to announce where the international games will be played in 2007 (likely London and/or Berlin). Goodell sees those games as an opportunity to grow and extend the NFL’s brand, furthering suggestions Goodell made last week regarding the NFL expanding to either Toronto or Mexico City in the next decade.

100 days can barely be considered a ripple in what will be a lengthy period for Goodell as NFL commissioner. The first 100 days have been easy, other than the disappointment of the NFL Network’s inability to secure more cable carrier agreements, the business left behind by Paul Tagliabue when he retired on August 31 remains focused on doing exactly what Roger Goodell suggested they are focused on, moving forward and making the necessary changes to ensure the NFL remains on top of the sports industry.

For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom

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