The NFL has a distinguished history of successful partnerships with upstart media companies. When it became the home of Sunday Night Football in 1987, ESPN’s unprecedented growth accelerated. Then, in 1993, the NFL sold its NFC Sunday afternoon package to Fox, firmly establishing it as the fourth major broadcast network in the U.S. In turn, both deals expanded the NFL’s reach and significantly increased its media rights revenue.
This fall the NFL is working with another new media partner: Twitter. In a $10 million deal, Twitter is live streaming for free 10 Thursday Night Football (TNF) games. It is part of Twitter’s overall strategy of making live events the centerpiece of its platform. For its part, the NFL reportedly passed on higher bidders for the digital TNF package to test new distribution models with a trusted partner.
In the latest MIT Sloan Expert Series podcast, Ben Shields, MIT Sloan lecturer in Managerial Communications, speaks to host Rebecca Knight about the latest grand experiment in the future of television brought to consumers by the NFL and Twitter.
It may seem unlikely today, but when all is said and done with Deflategate and Tom Brady returns to the field, the Patriots, the NFL and even Brady all stand to emerge as winners in business over the long-term.
To be sure, the Deflategate crisis has been fraught with controversial questions. Was the “more probable than not” evidence cited in the Wells Report strong enough to convict Tom Brady? If so, what is a reasonable punishment? How serious of an offense is deflating footballs? How should Brady’s cooperation (or alleged lack thereof) in the investigation, including the recent revelation of his destroyed cell phone, factor into the punishment and appeal process? Fans and the media have been deliberating these and other issues with the same fervor as ranking the greatest quarterbacks of all-time (which, naturally, has been complicated by the allegations against Brady).
MIT Sloan Lecturer Ben Shields, the former director of social media and marketing at ESPN and co-author of The Sports Strategist, talks about deflate-gate, the investigation into whether the New England Patriots used deflated footballs in the Jan. 18 AFC championship game. Shields explains why the Patriots are prone to negative press and social media backlash and what the organization should do as a result.
I’m supposed to be pretty good at statistical-based predictions, but I could not have predicted how much the annual MIT Sloan Sports Analytic Conference would grow in just five years. The success is not just in attendance – this year’s March 4-5 event was another sellout – but in the range of topics, sports, and speakers. And that reflects a bigger trend: analytics has expanded not just within sports such as baseball and basketball where it has been accepted, but to other professional leagues, such as hockey and football.