Headlines abound this week, but the dominant sensation at the NFL Owners Meeting in Atlanta was a pregnant break. So much is going to happen: the equity deal between Sunday Ticket and NFL Media, the punishment of Deshaun Watson, the investigation into Dan Snyder, the investigation into Stephen Ross…
…and that was before Wednesday when Jon Gruden picked up two big early wins on court against the NFL.
NFL insiders now expect that the final decision on who should pay the $790 million settlement in the St. Louis relocation lawsuit will go back to Commissioner Roger Goodell, who says there are too many hard feelings and different ones There are opinions among the owners in order to reach a negotiated solution. A five-owner select committee hopes to at least provide guidance to Goodell and the finance committee on what would be acceptable.
To pay St. Louis promptly, The Athletic reported, the teams were each docked with $7.5 million from revenue-sharing pots. I can confirm that (although my sources say the number is a bit lower), but as history notes, teams could still get paid back and don’t know what to expect.
That last part is crucial and needs to be repeated: the revenue slump for Teams wasn’t a political decision. It’s a bit like how money flows with a colonoscopy — you and your insurance company pay a joint fee on the day, but it can take months to fully settle the bill with the clinic (and lawyers), and reimbursements afterwards are common.
Don’t underestimate the bad feelings this creates in owners. Some think Kroenke promised to compensate the league, and it’s as simple as that. There are some others who think the league should share the burden entirely. Then there’s another group that believes this is mostly Kroenke’s fault, but acknowledges the NFL may have made it worse in court, so a limited contribution is fair.
Let’s assume there’s a middle ground here. How do you parse that?
One viewpoint reads: Kroenke should be getting about $450 million to $500 million in aid, but the additional $290 million is his sole problem as a result of this writing — which she says has increased the cost of the settlement for no good reason . Also, his desire to get this settled before SoFi Stadium hosted the Super Bowl also likely increased the cost. How much?
Even if the owners could agree on cost sharing, the burden varies so much depending on each team’s books. Just think of the $7.5 million in earnings so far — that’s 2% of the Cowboys’ 2019 operating income but 17.4% of the Lions’ income.
Incidentally, this case is costing the league nearly as much as the 2013 concussion lawsuit settlement, which by last fall had paid out more than $800 million in claims.
Incidentally, this is the first SBJ Football since the St. Louis Post-Dispatch wrote this compelling account of how the NFL and the Rams made the move to LA. A key takeaway: Rams and NFL officials had already discussed SoFi Stadium’s location at length at the 2014 Super Bowl, when Roger Goodell said, “To my knowledge, there are no plans for a stadium development.”
This week I asked the Commish: “The stories they told with these records make it clear to a reasonable reader that the public was misled by the Rams and the league as to Stan Kroenke’s intentions before this trial.” became public. With so many stadium and event issues cropping up in the league over the next 5-10 years, what assurance can you give to fans in other cities that they will hear the clear story from the league and their team about their needs and intentions and their sustainability in their markets?”
Goodell: “I would say to you, first point of view, I do not agree with your assumption as to what you conclude. Second, I think these trials end up being very public. Very transparent. And I think everyone understands exactly what the club needs and what the community wants to do, and they’re trying to work towards reaching that kind of agreement. But none of us want to see moves. We’ve always said we work hard to avoid them. When they happen, they are painful for everyone. And we are doing our best to avoid that.”
I couldn’t follow any further.
Robert Kraft’s questions never stop, says NBC Sports Chair Pete Bevacqua.
While NBC and the NFL were negotiating to extend Sunday Night Football rights through 2021, Bevacqua recently told me Kraft would be peppering him for all the details. Where was the Peacock streaming service headed? How did you see the co-development of linear broadcast TV and streaming? How would NBC deal with the change? All this while raising questions about the role of analytics and gambling in production and consumer behavior in the coming decade – and more.
“With Robert, it’s never been a look back and let’s pat ourselves on the back for the great work we’ve done over the past decade,” said Bevacqua. “Let’s accept that, let’s acknowledge that. But let’s really think about the next 10-11 years and beyond, and how do we keep that going? And I really admired that element of the conversations we had with him.”
Kraft was recently honored with the SBJ’s Lifetime Achievement Award, an opportunity for industry leaders to share their thoughts on the way the six-time Super Bowl champion owner does business. Bevacqua echoed the sentiments of many who remember Kraft’s talent for genuine human connection.
When the Buccaneers and Tom Brady played “SNF” in New England last fall, Bevacqua, his wife, and NBCU CEO Jeff Shell Krafts were guests for the game, and they felt it firsthand on that “magical night.” “He exudes such warmth, he just makes you feel comfortable and at home,” said Bevacqua.
Here’s Kraft’s acceptance speech at the recent Sports Business Awards.
Let’s look at the USFL through week 6 of 10. It averages around 870,000 viewers across 22 game broadcasts, Austin Karp reports — fewer than the 2020 XFL (1.9 million for a similar number of games) but more than the Alliance of American Football in 2019 (556,000). There was a big drop after week 1, but viewership has mostly stabilized.
What did the Marchand and Ourand Sports Media Podcast have to say about Fox Sports-owned USFL this week? Andrew Marchand of the NY Post: “The numbers are pretty good, they’re not bad across the board considering they own the league and NBC has their games too.”
My colleague John Ourand: “They’ve created a TV show, and they’re getting non-NFL numbers, non-NBA playoff numbers. But they get pretty good numbers for Saturday afternoon/Saturday night football.”
- To help families that have owned NFL teams for generations keep the clubs family-owned, the league voted to increase the minimum capital threshold required to control individuals in those families from 5% to 1% lower, sources tell me.
- The NFL will proceed with the creation of its own streaming service, NFL Plus. A market launch is expected in July. Live games on mobile phones and tablets will be the content core of NFL Plus, which sells for about $5 a month, although a source warned the pricing structure could change.
- Pepsi confirmed my colleague Terry Lefton’s coverage in February and made it official this week that it will not be renewing its Super Bowl halftime show sponsorship deal.
- The Eagles will become the first NFL team with commercial rights in Africa as part of an expansion of the NFL’s international marketing program, a source close to the process told me. The Eagles will become the 19th team to join the program, receiving rights in Ghana, Australia and New Zealand.
- The NFL is considering radical changes to the Pro Bowl, recognizing that the tackle football exhibition aspect of the All-Star Celebration no longer meets league quality standards.
- Owners this week agreed to a proposal that would require teams to share customer data with the league office, sources told me, a move that would supercharge the centralized NFL fan database but has some clubs concerned about privacy and competition.
- All five groups vying to buy the Broncos submitted their proposed purchase agreement amendments ahead of the second round of bids in June, sources said, further evidence the momentum is building towards a sale that is likely to set a new price record for a will set up acquisition of professional sports teams.
- Five states have fully sanctioned girls’ flag football: Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Nevada and Alaska. At least seven others have started pilots, including populous California and New York, and the number is growing fast. In most states, an NFL club is involved to some degree.