If you’re waiting for a swift NFL decision about Deshaun Watson’s future, here’s a word of guidance: Don’t. What’s disconcerting about Roger Goodell’s latest player conduct crisis is that the league, never more powerful or flush with prosperity, has no incentive to do anything but stand by.
One hundred and thirteen billion dollars are pouring into 345 Park Avenue via new broadcasting agreements, meaning the league isn’t impacted by what advertisers are thinking. America is paralyzed by more racial tension, awaiting a verdict in Minneapolis that could trigger nationwide violence. And hey, way more important than anything else — as ESPN and the NFL Network scream every commercial break — the draft is arriving soon, with Goodell in Watson deflection mode while talk-show hosts chatter about the Justin Fields smear campaign, the legitimacy of Trey Lance, whether the 49ers are bluffing and how uptight Bill Belichick must be after Tom Brady one-upped him.
The league is not on the timetable of Watson’s accusers, MeToo advocates or the Houston Texans, who will need a quarterback when camp starts in 14 weeks. Nor is the league on the timetable of Nike, Reliant Energy and Beats by Dre, which have suspended or dropped endorsement contracts with Watson as he defends himself against accusations of sexual assault and inappropriate behavior. “We are deeply concerned by the disturbing allegations … We will continue to closely monitor the situation,” Nike said in a statement.
No, the NFL is on the NFL’s timetable.
I’m not hearing much outcry about it, either.
The country is in a different mindset about sports in 2021. People are trying to survive the pandemic and the evils of modern life, leaving them with little time or energy to debate sports-related topics — even one as alarming as the number of Watson accusers, now 21 and counting (one case was dropped) and all disclosing their identities publicly through attack-dog lawyer Tony Buzbee. Unlike the Ezekiel Elliott case, the Ray Rice case, the Adrian Peterson case, the Ben Roethlisberger case and, going way back, the Michael Vick and Ray Lewis cases, Watson isn’t hearing the pounding daily calls for justice. Just as the NFL is on pause, so are Americans, content to wait regardless of Watson’s celebrated standing as a dazzling playmaker and marketing force.
The sheer volume of allegations suggests Watson is either a gross sexual predator or the most naive man on Earth, thinking massage therapy sessions were sex favors. But while Watson faces those 21 civil lawsuits, the difference between his situation and others is that criminal charges have yet to be filed. Concerns also remain about Buzbee, described in Houston legal circles as a self-promoter and circus act, and how throughly he vetted the plaintiffs. The NFL has launched its own investigation, but with so many alleged victims and questions to ask, the process could take months.
So anyone anticipating a hammer from the commissioner should expect silence, hardly the most sensitive way to handle a barrage of sexual assault claims. Armed with unprecedented leverage — the NFL product has proved to be Teflon, surviving existential threats ranging from concussions to the Colin Kaepernick crusade — Goodell can act as he prefers when he rules. Assuming Watson isn’t convicted in a criminal proceeding, he easily could be placed on the Commissioner’s Exempt list, which allows him to be paid while sitting out games, if not the entire 2021 season. That isn’t what the Texans want, already having removed Watson’s images from the introduction of the team’s online TV show. They would like to trade him ASAP, and, shocking as it seems, there are teams privately longing to acquire the uber-quarterback for possible use no matter how his case turns out. If the Texans cut Watson, they would receive zero compensation from the team that snaps him up.
Or, if he wants to deal with some public heat, Goodell can take no action against Watson because he hasn’t been charged criminally. The MeToo groups would howl, but disturbingly, the fantasy players would celebrate, as would fans of the team that acquires Watson. Without the legal case, he would have been front and center on draft night after demanding a trade in January. The Jets and 49ers would be among those making offers, allowing the Texans to select Zach Wilson, Fields or Lance in a franchise rebuild. Now, any Watson interest around the league must be kept on the down-low.
For certain, the NFL has noticed the absence of public indignation about this case. Perhaps sports fans are struck by legal fatigue on top of pandemic burnout. When one of football’s most dynamic players, Aaron Donald of the Los Angeles Rams, was accused Wednesday of assaulting a 26-year-old man at an after-hours club in Pittsburgh, did anyone blink? There is an assumption now, after so many years of arrests and suspensions, that athletes will find trouble. At long last, as Charles Barkley said long ago, they should not be viewed as role models because too many are irresponsible.
The league seems more concerned now about vaccinations than Deshaun Watson. Goodell would prefer all players, coaches, personnel and spectators are inoculated so normalcy can return. “All of us in the NFL want to see every one of our fans back,” he said. “Football is simply not the same without the fans, and we expect to have full stadiums in the 2021 season.” Yet players continue to be divided about vaccines, some out of medical and religious concerns, which prompted the league to recruit star quarterback Russell Wilson to raise awareness. He’s hosting a TV special Sunday night with his wife, the singer Ciara, called “Roll Up Your Sleeves.”
If, say, only half the league’s players are vaccinated by summer, that could create divisions in locker rooms — and send a sweeping message that prompts fans to avoid stadiums. In Erie County, N.Y., spectators will require proof of vaccination to attend Buffalo Bills home games. The announcement prompted outrage from Rachel Bush, wife of Bills safety Jordan Poyer, who tweeted that she’s “alarmed (by) the amount of Americans that think it’s perfectly okay for the government to force an experimental vaccine on citizens.”
Continued Bush: “We have pregnant wives. Wives who are breast-feeding. Wives who have already had Covid (so it’s dangerous to get vaccinated now) etc etc. NONE of us are comfortable with getting the vaccine. NONE of us should be forced to do so in order to watch our own husbands play live.”
She is part of a choir that will continue preaching to the NFL and all sports leagues that make vaccine demands. Goodell could reach out to them, sure, and try to calm the storm.
But why would he? He’s the king of an empire that is too big to care about much of anything, beyond those whopping bank deposits from the networks.
Keeping Premier League Games Shouldn’t Be A Hard Call For NBC
“Beyond its massive global fanbase, the Premier League offers NBC/Peacock a unique modern 21st-century sport for the short attention span of fans.”
NBC Sports is facing some tough, costly decisions that will define its sports brand for the rest of this decade. A chance to connect with viewers in a changing climate and grow Peacock’s audience as well. However, making the right choice is paramount to not losing to apps like Paramount+ (pun intended).
NBC is currently in the business of negotiating to continue airing the Premier League as their current deal ends after this 2021-2022 season. NASCAR is contracted to NBC (and FOX) through the 2024 season.
NBC’s tentpole sports are the NFL and the Olympics.
Negotiations for the EPL are expected to go down to the wire. Rather than re-up with NBC, the league is meeting with other networks to drive up the price. NBC has to then make a decision if the rights go north of $2 billion.
Should NBC spend that much on a sport that is not played in the United States? It’s not my money, but that sport continues to grow in the US.
If NBC re-ups with the Premier League, will that leave any coins in the cupboard to re-up with NASCAR? Comcast CEO Brian Roberts hinted that there might be some penny pinching as the prices continue to soar. This may have been one of the reasons that NBC did not fight to keep the National Hockey League, whose rights will be with Disney and WarnerMedia through ESPN and TNT, respectively.
“These are really hard calls,” Roberts said. “You don’t always want to prevail, and sometimes you’re right and sometimes you’re wrong, but I think the sustainability of sports is a critical part of what our company does well.”
Roberts was speaking virtually at the recent Goldman Sachs 30th Annual Communacopia Conference. He told the audience that between NBC and European network Sky, that Comcast has allocated approximately $20 billion towards these sports properties.
Comcast CFO Michael Cavanagh spoke virtually at the Bank of America Securities 2021 Media, Communications and Entertainment Conference and echoed that the company is in a good position to make some strong choices in the sports realm.
“The bar is really high for us to pursue outright acquisitions of any material size,” Cavanagh added. “We got a great hand to play with what we have.”
While the European investments involve a partnership with American rival Viacom, the US market seems to have apparent limits.
Last Saturday’s NASCAR Cup Series at Bristol Motor Speedway was seen by around 2.19 million people. It was the most-watched motorsports event of the weekend. That same week eight different Premier League matches saw over 1 million viewers. More than half of those matches were on subscription-based Peacock.
Beyond its massive global fanbase, the Premier League offers NBC/Peacock a unique modern 21st-century sport for the short attention span of fans. A game of typical soccer fan is used to a sport that is less than two hours long. The investment in a team is one or two games a week.
My connection to the Premier League began before the pandemic. When I cut the cord in late 2017, I purchase Apple TV. Setting it up, it asks you to name your favorite teams. After clicking on the Syracuse Orange and the New Jersey Devils, I recalled that my wife has family based in London, England. They are season ticket holders for Arsenal, and that family redefined the word “die-hard” fans.
I’ve long been a believer that sports allegiances are best when handed down by family. I love hearing stories of people loving the New York Giants because their parents liked them, and they pass it down to their children.
I’ve successfully given my allegiance to the Devils to my young daughters.
By telling Apple TV that I liked Arsenal, I get alerts from three different apps when the “Gunners” are playing. The $4.99 is totally worth it to see Arsenal.
Whenever I told this story, I was amazed to see how many other American sports fans had a Premier League team. Students of mine at Seton Hall University rooted for Tottenham Hotspurs, while an old colleague cheers on Chelsea.
This is not meant to say that NBC should sign the EPL on my account. The key for any US-based soccer fan is that between Bundesliga, Serie A, and other leagues, there will be no shortage of soccer available on both linear television and streaming services.
Besides, Dani Rojas did say that “Football is life.” NBC, originator of the Ted Lasso character, should make keeping its Premier League US connection a priority.
Media Noise – Episode 45
Today, Demetri is joined by Tyler McComas and Russ Heltman. Tyler pops on to talk about the big start to the college football season on TV. Russ talks about Barstool’s upfront presentation and how the business community may not see any problems in working with the brand. Plus, Demetri is optimistic about FOX Sports Radio’s new morning show.
6 Ad Categories Hotter Than Gambling For Sports Radio
“Using sports radio as a back page service for gambling will have a limited shelf life.”
For years sports radio stations pushed sports gambling advertisers to early Saturday and Sunday morning. The 1-800 ads, shouting, and false claims were seedy, and some stations wouldn’t even accept the business at 5 am on Sunday.
Now, with all but ten states ready to go all in on sports gambling, sports radio stations can’t get enough of that green. Demetri Ravanos wrote about the money cannon that sports gambling has become for stations. Well, what if you are in one of those ten states where it isn’t likely to ever be legal like California or Texas? Where is your pot of gold?
Or, let’s face it, the more gambling ads you run, the more risk you take on that the ads will not all work as you cannibalize the audience and chase other listeners away who ARE NOT online gambling service users and never will be. So, what about you? Where is your pot of gold?
Well, let’s go Digging for Gold.
The RAB produces the MRI-Simmons Gold Digger PROSPECTING REPORT for several radio formats. In it, they index sports radio listeners’ habits against an average of 18+ Adult. The Gold Digger report looks at areas where the index is higher than the norm – meaning the sports radio audience is more likely to use the product or service than an average 18+ Adult who doesn’t listen to sports radio. The report, generated in 2020, indicates that sports radio listeners are 106% more likely to have used an online gambling site in the last thirty days. That’s impressive because the report only lists 32 activities or purchases a sports radio listener indexes higher than an average adult. I looked at those 32 higher indexes, and I think we can start looking for some gold.
Using sports radio as a back page service for gambling will have a limited shelf life. The gambling companies who commit significant money to get results will continue advertising and chase the others away. So, the future of sports radio needs to include other cash cows.
If it is evident to online sports gambling services that sports radio stations are a must-buy, who else should feel that way? I looked at the Top 32 and eliminated the media companies. ESPN, MLB/NHL/NFL networks, and others aren’t spending cash on sports radio stations they don’t own in general. But Joseph A Bank clothing, Fidelity, and Hotwire should! Here’s your PICK-6 list I pulled together that’s hotter than sports gambling:
- Sportscard collectors, Dapper Labs, Open Sea- read about Sports NFT $.
- Online brokerage firms-Fidelity, Charles Schwab, Robinhood, Webull, TD Ameritrade
- Golf courses, resorts, equipment, etc.- we play golf at home and vacation
- Hotwire.com, Booking.com, TripAdvisor, Airbnb, Carnival Corporation, and Priceline.com- we’ve used Hotwire in the last year.
- FedEx, UPS, U.S. Postal Service, Venmo, PayPal, Zelle-we wired or overnighted $
- Jos. A. Bank, shein.com, macys.com, nordstroms.com- we went to Jos. A. Bank in last three months
The sports card/NFT market is 32% hotter than the sports betting market for sports radio listeners. Everything on the PICK-6 is at least 100% more likely to purchase than an average 18+ Adult who doesn’t listen to sports radio. All listed are at or above indexing strength compared to sports betting. The individual companies I added are industry leaders. Bet on it! Email me for details.
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