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Record ratings carry a warning for NFL, union

Thursday night’s season opener produced only 23 points, and not much drama.  But that only makes the size of the television audience more amazing.

A mind-boggling 27.5 million viewers tuned in for the Vikings-Saints game, giving the NFL its biggest prime-time audience in 14 years.  In New Orleans, the game generated a rating of 60.0, higher than the 56.3 rating in New Orleans for Super Bowl XLIV.

Coming on the heels of a pair of NBC preseason games that set viewership records and that ranked as the top shows of their respective weeks, pro football once again has demonstrated its dominance of the American sports landscape.

At a time when the NFL and the players’ union are inching closer to a potential work stoppage in 2011 (although the news of potential decertification of the union could make that far less likely), all parties should be taking a close look at the current popularity of the game — and they should ask themselves whether and to what extent they wish to risk the same kind of decline that baseball and hockey experienced after a lengthy strike and lockout, respectively.

For now, the goose is firing out golden eggs faster than a machine gun with a hair trigger.  Though the NFL can weather a short-term storm better than other sports, the current debate regarding whether the players will take a smaller piece in the hopes of eating from a larger pie overlooks the reality is that the pie will, to a certain extent, shrink if our obsession for football becomes interrupted by the perceived or actual greed of the current stewards of the game.

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42 Responses to “Record ratings carry a warning for NFL, union”
  1. Uncle Leo says: Sep 11, 2010 10:52 PM

    TV Ratings are up.
    Stadium crowds are down.
    Pay for view, here we come.

  2. Proven truth says: Sep 11, 2010 10:55 PM

    Man dalllas is going to lose sooo baddddd!!!! WE WANT DALLAS!!!WE WANT DALLAS!!!WE WANT DALLAS!!!WE WANT DALLAS!!!WE WANT DALLAS!!!WE WANT DALLAS!!!

  3. Trig says: Sep 11, 2010 10:57 PM

    Ahhh boy. Florio always with the melodrama and doom and gloom. Its really not the same as baseball and hockey at all.
    1st, those 2 sports were already in decline. Second, and Im not sure about hockey, but baseball contracts are guaranteed. Football, not. So its no way that informed sportsman will look at an NFL player that strikes in the same way as they look at a baseball player.
    Plus, look at baseball, and the thousands who swore they’d never come back……lmao. How’d that work out.
    I hope to God there isnt a strike cuz I love football, but no way people are turning their back on football no matter.
    Follow me on Twitter yall @socraticmeth Hollerrrrrrr

  4. Roger the Dodger says: Sep 11, 2010 10:58 PM

    Growing up, back in the Dark Ages, I watched two pro sports – football and baseball. I played both as a kid, and up to the high school level. I didn’t really get into pro baskeball that much, and only really followed it during the Magic / Larry years.
    Football and baseball remained my loves in adulthood. I was an early Rotisserie player, went to A’s and Giants games when I was in the Bay Area, and followed the game closely. I hurried home the day of the Loma Prieta earthquake just so I could watch the Series on TV.
    But that changed in the strike of ’94. I got disgusted with the millionaires and billionaires duking it out over their respective pieces of the pie – the pie that I and other fans were provided. I haven’t watched a game since that season. I couldn’t name 5 pro baseballers today, and I once knew the best utility player on every team.
    If the NFL has a strike season, it’ll break my heart, and probably ruin my enjoyment of it. I’ll probably not watch it anymore, either. I’m a nearly 50-year fan, and they’re in danger of losing me. Over greed. And I’m not alone.

  5. robert ethen says: Sep 11, 2010 11:04 PM

    22.5 million of whom tuned in solely because Brett Favre was in the game.
    “Who is the other team again, George? I can never remember. The ones with the flowers on their helmets.”.

  6. NFLGREEDLEAGUE says: Sep 11, 2010 11:13 PM

    I feel the need the need for Greed!

  7. Final Word says: Sep 11, 2010 11:19 PM

    Right on Jason!!!

  8. mikemcsaint says: Sep 11, 2010 11:35 PM

    Actually robert ethen the most watched event in television history was last years Super Bowl starring none other than the New Orleans Saints. So, as usual, your ignorance shines brightly

  9. FinFan68 says: Sep 11, 2010 11:48 PM

    The owners will soon realize that they charge too much for the average fan to go to the stadium to take in a game. Tickets, concessions, parking, and the PSL scheme have gotten way out of hand. With the quality and size of today’s TVs, many local fans are choosing to watch the games from the comfort of their own homes. Pay per view football is coming. If they can’t earn enough from the turnstiles to keep paying lottery money to the players, they will get it from the average fans. Once they start to realize that most NFL fans do not live in the immediate vicinity of their favorite teams, it’s all over. PPV ruined boxing and it will ruin the NFL as well. The Sunday ticket is basically a PPV test run anyway. It is already expensive and it will get worse as soon as they figure out how to make more money than they currently get from the networks.

  10. BP says: Sep 11, 2010 11:52 PM

    The players consider themselves partners with the owners. The owners don’t want a partner. Unions everywhere are falling apart because they don’t get it. Today you have to work with the company and insist simply on a fair deal. Demanding to be their partner will be your demise. I suspect the owners would be willing to actually make less money if they could become the sole proprietor of THEIR company again. If they play 20 regular season and pre-season games combined, and the owners want to make 18 of them regular season games then the players want a piece of any more profit made, THAT is a recipe for trouble. And any business would do exactly what the owners are doing if they had to put up with this kind of nonsense.
    The owners will win this because they OWN pro football, and will be around long after all these players are gone, if they so choose.

  11. Anrkist says: Sep 11, 2010 11:53 PM

    What happened to baseball after the strike in the 90s? We are fickle and have the attention span of a gnat. Don’t loose it.

  12. IRCHS1963 says: Sep 11, 2010 11:55 PM

    In spite of Brett ‘Fraud’, football fans tuned in for the game.
    Hopefully both the Players & Owners will use common sense instead of greed and come to an agreement. Here’s hoping !!!

  13. BigBear123 says: Sep 11, 2010 11:57 PM

    In the current economic client that isn’t going to turn around until January 2013 people are turning to football now more than ever as an escape. If that gets taken away people are going to be pissed and the backlash will be worse than most think.

  14. bigbolt says: Sep 12, 2010 12:23 AM

    @ Trig
    Steroids is why baseball came back. McGwire and Sosa chasing down the HR record while being juiced out of their minds.
    And yes, people are turning their backs on GOING to football games. Attendance will be down again throughout the league. Prices have become absolutely ridiculous.

  15. mr_snrub says: Sep 12, 2010 12:29 AM

    Most of us were looking for a reason to watch baseball less anyways and most of the losers here don’t watch hockey to begin with (their loss).
    Fact is, Commissioner Quit Screwing Up My League knows this and also knows that a 6 week delay in the 2011 season is far more likely to have people begging to pay more than face value for tickets than it is to have people tune out.

  16. TheToolofTools says: Sep 12, 2010 12:30 AM

    I think the ratings are manipulated.
    Who is guarding the hen house?
    I don’t believe this for a moment.
    No way.
    By the way.. I heard NFL owners don’t pay income taxes on their teams profits… is this true?
    I would really like to know.

  17. smashmouthd says: Sep 12, 2010 12:34 AM

    Ratings are up because earnings are DOWN
    Less people going to the stadiums, more people are tuning in for FREE (or almost free as its part of the cable/sat bill).
    As UNEMPLOYMENT continues to rise, and those who have been unemployed for years now, remain that way (even though they are no longer counted in the unemployment figures given every month) there will be less folks willing to fork over the hundreds of dollars it costs to go to the games.
    Both the Owners and Players better get with the new reality… as Obama says, get used to 10% unemployment and higher taxes.

  18. brad1719 says: Sep 12, 2010 12:35 AM

    Trig, why would anyone want to follow you on Twitter? Douche.

  19. DB26 says: Sep 12, 2010 12:54 AM

    1) Very good post Roger. I am 34 and could name any Red & most any other teams worst player + half of their minor league system. After the strike, it took me a good 10 years to get back to that point with baseball. The shortened NFL season in the 80′s is still vivid to me. I must admit, I would likely lose my interest in pro sports if the NFL & NFLPA cannot strike a deal. Which leads into #2:
    2) I am, in all honesty, in the process of building a website & advertising via facebook & message boards like PFT & others, to organize a fan strike. Basically, we fans would band together as the paying customers, via TV Ratings, Sunday Ticket, Apparel, Season Tickets, PSL’s, Single game tickets, concessions, parking, transit transportation, hotels, etc, and lockout the NFL starting at playoff week 1 if a new CBA has not been signed. If the fans stick to their guns & skip the playoffs, this sport & those running it may just take us & our revenue seriously. Neither the owners or the players can make money if we aren’t willing to purchase or support their product. Also by doing this, owners & league officials will have to win us back by setting lower ticket values, lower concessions, lower Sunday Ticket prices, etc. If you think about it, we aren’t just a nonconformed group of peeons. If we strike, they lose all the revenue from the above mentioned streams. Not to mention, sponsors do just that to reach out to potential customers of their products, aka us consumers. If there are no customers to market to, there are no sponsors. And it isn’t just us fans that stand to lose our luxury viewing here. Small Business Owners stand to take a big hit here. Individual owned gas stations, hotels, sports bars, apparel shops, & even the guy standing on the corner selling team shirts & peanuts.
    We get enough pecker to the colon from the government day in and out. Should the things that keep us sane & provide family / friendly enjoyment in our personal lives be taken from us as well?
    I will post the site soon & also hope that Florio & other message board sites may give some ad space to push the cause.
    Hope others feel the same as I do!

  20. other123 says: Sep 12, 2010 1:04 AM

    I think Frank Trigg is wrong. I dabble in baseball when a local team is winning, but not like before the world series halt.I lived in Detroit for the 1st 2 cups, but after the strike, who wants to watch versus at 4pm. I’m rabid for the NFL. But if this millionaire v billionaire thing gets worse, I will find something else. Plus, Jay Glazer can kick your ass.

  21. RexR#1 says: Sep 12, 2010 1:17 AM

    Re: Coming on the heels of a pair of NBC preseason games that set viewership records

    Breaking news – figures will be released next week showing the poverty rate is now higher than its ever been since the 60s.
    Of course TV ratings are up that’s about all most people have the money to do – stay home and watch TV. People love football whether it is high scoring or not.
    That game was not boring, Minnesota was at worst one drive, one turnover to them or one play away from winnng. Hardly a boring game that was featured by excellent defense which a whole lot of real football fans prefer.

  22. timegambit says: Sep 12, 2010 1:49 AM

    How much is enough, Gorden?

  23. LuckyPierre says: Sep 12, 2010 1:54 AM

    What to make of the higher ratings in N.O. compared to the Super Bowl? Was it that there were fewer parties on Thursday night so more households were tuned in?

  24. wintermoonrising says: Sep 12, 2010 2:26 AM

    It’s obvious to every informed fan of the game what needs to be fixed on both sides of the issue. Fix it and play ball damn it!

  25. afiresnake says: Sep 12, 2010 6:09 AM

    @Uncle Leo: A significant number of people already pay per view … any Directv subscriber and anybody outside US/Canada … some even pay a NFL company for it directly:D

  26. Bwa Ha Ha says: Sep 12, 2010 6:50 AM

    Sorry, but Florio is right.
    If football doesn’t happen next season, or if there is a pay to watch thing.
    People will abandon the game for a long time.

  27. calraider says: Sep 12, 2010 6:57 AM

    FLorio, you are an idiot. The owners are causing this, if they offered to extend the CBA the players would take it, so give this “warning to players” you are such a tool of owners

  28. FoF says: Sep 12, 2010 7:14 AM

    Sorry folks, but I hate to break it to ya. These record ratings games are going to end once Favre retires.

  29. tommy_the_k says: Sep 12, 2010 7:22 AM

    the only way to avert a work stoppage if the fans pledge to boycott watching/attending games for 1 year. we must organize and have our voice heard. the FANS are the game in terms of money and popularity. we must make a pledge and keep our word

  30. jsavage58 says: Sep 12, 2010 7:46 AM

    I stopped going to the stadiums, Giants and Yankees, because I could no longer reason $6 hot chocolate, $10 beers, $30 parking etc.. I would go it each several times a year. I love a game in person but am not doing it anymore on principal. Haven’t seen the new Yankee stadium, and won’t do the new Giants either. Now, a strike? FU.. all. I have plenty of other things I can do on a Sunday rather than be a55raped.

  31. tombrookshire says: Sep 12, 2010 7:48 AM

    NFL has got to be excited about this. Attendance at stadiums down. Viewership way up. They couldn’t care less. Why? The crowd in the stands is mere window dressing. They could fill the stands with CGI figures and it wouldn’t make a difference. To the NFL, them, the important number is the global viewing audience, advertising revenue and licensed product sales. Revenues from stadium attendance is fixed and fluxuates like we have seen in down economic times. There are no limits to the TV audience and no off button on the money machine. That’s why they are so eager to add games and export the product. Lots of jerseys, beer and sneakers to sell in Asia, Europe and Africa, and gambling. The NFL business is the epitome of the USA itself. Glutony, greed, debauchery, and zero accountability, wrapped up in a red, white and blue bow.

  32. Jaydub says: Sep 12, 2010 8:21 AM

    I wouldn’t be able to turn my back on football, but a strike/lockout would most definitely turn my stomach. The NFL owners are doing exactly what the MLB and NHL owners did to bring about the strikes in ’94 and ’05, respectively. They are badly overpaying these players, and it’s reaching the point where in order to come up with the money, the fans have to suffer.
    The recent Tom Brady deal is beyond absurd. I don’t give a shit how good he is. He’s ONE PLAYER. If he requires $48 mil guaranteed to play a game, he should simply retire. He’s a big part of the problem, just like Darelle Revis. Revis had to have his head coach and GM fly down to fondle his nuts in order to get him to play, and they fondled him to the tune of $46 mil, 30 of which is guaranteed. He still had some feeling in his brass balls to say “Nnamdi still got more…”, as if he still wasn’t happy with the monster deal he just cried his way into.
    If this game goes away, blame the owners for giving in to these greedy, ego-tripping jagoffs.
    Oh, and to the people complaining about prices of food/drinks at the stadium? No one told you to buy anything, stupid. Eat and drink before you go in. Problem solved. How did you not figure that out on your own?!

  33. Fan says: Sep 12, 2010 9:00 AM

    Sorry, but you people are going to have your heads explode if you keep trying to apply logic to any of this. The owners cancel a contract pleading “unworkable” but keep giving players bigger contracts? The players boycott half way through contracts feeling “disrespected” because 20 million isn’t enough? All this in the middle of economic times the like most of us have never seen? And a Union looking to decertify to get a better bargaining position?
    I, for one, wish the whole thing would collapse and teach them all a lesson. But we deserve what we get if, even with no money, we still find enough to spend it on these morons. Maybe Washington will make football games “entitlements.” Everything else is.

  34. Favre's Hamartia says: Sep 12, 2010 9:01 AM

    FoF says:
    September 12, 2010 7:14 AM
    “Sorry folks, but I hate to break it to ya. These record ratings games are going to end once Favre retires.”
    =================================
    You are really beyond help, aren’t you?

  35. -z- says: Sep 12, 2010 9:13 AM

    Baseball and hockey have no competition, especially in the TV marketplace – Not so the NFL – Some would argue that NCAA football is a more exciting game, whether it is or not, it most certainly is a TV replacement – The NFL should tread very carrefully.

  36. truegrinder80 says: Sep 12, 2010 9:48 AM

    What Florio doesn’t get is the NFL has a HUGE Problem looming at the Gate! Football has become a television sport! These stadiums are getting EMPTIER and EMPTIER. People are no longer getting “fooled” by the stadium experience. HD television, cheap food, friends, clean bathrooms in the luxury of your own home is the future. Baseball is killing it at the gate and always will, but their television numbers will always struggle. They still make HUGE money because they play 81 home games, not 10. The NFL has to be very careful about how they proceed here because those stadiums won’t be filling up anytime soon.

  37. Mooch says: Sep 12, 2010 9:57 AM

    TV Ratings are up.
    Stadium crowds are down.
    That’s a formula for success. After all, aren’t the paltry 80,000 who show up for games merely extras that enhance the telecast?
    And aren’t the games on ESPN and NFLN pay per view lite? They know they can do it, but as long as they have sponsors lining up for the air time on the Majors, it probably is still a ways away.
    The 1pm game is on borrowed time. The whole schedule will go to 4p-7p-10p soon.

  38. lebowski says: Sep 12, 2010 10:09 AM

    24 million of those viewers tuned in ‘cuz they wanted to see Favre busted in half again. Instead they got to see him flounder like he skipped the whole offseason or something.

  39. sportsbruh3 says: Sep 12, 2010 10:41 AM

    I am with the BALLERS!!!!
    Their contracts are NOT guaranteed. which means they will be in the unemployment line and flipping burgers. The OWNERS will remain rich with Jets, Bentleys, and villa’s everywhere.
    Because the OWNERS are out of sight…goofy sportsfans give them a pass as if they are the ELITE that should remain in an ELITE status.
    While they plunder the NFL and do everything to impoverish the players.
    Wake up people. Only a handful of players are getting paid MILLIONS. Most are gettling less than $500,000 and that little money runs out quickly.
    How many times have you heard of a NFL Franchise Owner going Broke?

  40. jk7761 says: Sep 12, 2010 11:13 AM

    For me, I have not watched a MLB game since their strike.
    The NFL will get the same treatment.
    All involved need to remember this is entertainment not a necessity.

  41. joetoronto says: Sep 12, 2010 11:44 AM

    sportsbruh3: it sounds like the players don’t need the owners, right bruh?
    Sure, the players can buy their own teams, screw the owners who have all the risk.

  42. va4favre says: Sep 13, 2010 6:52 AM

    The Saints were popular SB winners, but they still cannot hold a candle to the star power of Brett Favre. FofF is right that the ratings will go down when he retires. You would think the idiots in the media would appreciate that. I will say that the comments about the fans preferring to watch at home should be a serious concern to the NFL.

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