Winston wonders if NFL is maxing out revenue on Thursday nights

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Texans tackle Eric Winston doesn’t think that adding two games to the regular season is the best way for the NFL to grow revenue.

He understands how important television contracts are for the league, and wonders if adding playoff games or changing the league’s Thursday night package would be a better way to go.

“If you are the NFL and we are looking for new revenue, why don’t we bid out the Thursday night game?” Winston asked during a Tuesday appearance on ProFootballTalk Live.  “Thursday is supposed to be the most popular night for everyone to watch TV.  They have a game that has become more and more popular.

“Maybe some of these other networks would like to get into NFL football.  I guarantee that game would bring in more than $500 million alone just from playing half a season.”

It’s a terrific point by Winston, one we’ve raised in the past in response to complaints from players about playing on Thursdays.   (It’s also one that will make the league feel uncomfortable.)

We understand the business strategy of putting Thursday Night Football on NFL Network.  But five years after the package was awarded, it’s still not shown in New York City or on other cable packages.

Think about that for a second:  The most popular television property in the country — the NFL — is aired on the most popular television night of the week, and parts of the country still can’t see it?

Television, like football, is a results business.  Every year that the NFL passes up money to keep a television package that isn’t shown nationwide is a failure.   The man in charge of that failure is the league’s highest paid employee.

I love the quality of NFL Network in general — it’s a great product.  But they have run out of time to reasonably blame Time Warner or anyone else for not being able to get better distribution.

It’s like a coach blaming a bad call or injuries for a costly loss.  It’s an excuse, and the excuse has gotten old.

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24 responses to “Winston wonders if NFL is maxing out revenue on Thursday nights

  1. Winston’s idea along with the extension of the season and adding another bye week would allow to preserve the game and create new revenue.

    “Jerry Richardson, do I need to explain Thursday night television ratings to you, son? Because I don’t think you understand them.” – Eric Winston

  2. The reason they don’t have an NFL Network distribution deal with TimeWarner or Cablevision is simple. TW and Cablevision want access to Sunday Ticket or they won’t carry NFL Network on their basic tier.

    The premium that the NFL gets from its exclusivity agreement for Sunday Ticket with DirecTV far exceeds what could be generated with a few cents per subscriber that would be paid by TW or Cablevision. Therefore, it’s not a failure of their business model because their generating more revenue this way than if they gave up their exclusivity agreement.

    And it’s not like not having NFL Network available in all homes is a bad thing as the local games are still carried on local TV stations.

  3. stataddict,

    “The premium that the NFL gets from its exclusivity agreement for Sunday Ticket with DirecTV far exceeds what could be generated with a few cents per subscriber that would be paid by TW or Cablevision.”

    Way to completely ignore the revenue that would be generated by offering the NFL Season Ticket on TW and Cablevision and the additional ad revenue for the NFL Network.

  4. I totally agree, The NFL needs to open up the ticket to cable subscribers . I have lived in places where I could not have a dish due to line of sight issues , But I would loved to be able to sign up for the Sunday Ticket if it was on cable. Get rid of the exclusive deal with DirectTv and let everyone be able to buy it, I think they would cash in like crazy if they did.

  5. This is not the first time Eric Winston has said or written something on the NFL that’s worth discussing. Might not be a superstar but seems to be a pretty sharp guy.

  6. It is a great idea, but it will never work as the NFL Network is a stepping stone to pay per view for the NFL owners and selling those exclusive rights to their own product would set their PPV vision back years.

  7. Maybe Mr Winston should quit playing football and get into the management side of the game. He makes things sound pretty simple. Of course he wouldn’t make the salary 4M/yr salary he makes now.

  8. De Smith should think about adding Eric Winston to the negotiating. Seems like he could be the smartest man in the room for either side.

  9. The NFL Network is just a springboard for the day when every NFL game will only be available on a pay-per-view basis.
    People have already shown a willingness to pay to watch games on TV via DirecTV’s Sunday Ticket, and this year they even started selling games individually.

    Just look at the record number of TV blackouts that are happening. Think the NFL cares?
    Not really, not if total NFL PPV is in the works.

    If they can’t get your money at the stadium turnstile, they get it from your cable-satellite provider.

  10. Distrubting sunday ticket to all tv carriers instead of onlt DTV would also help. As a raiders fan living in VA thats the only way i can see Raider games. DTV sucks and it’s the only reason i have it. Payperview per game would be awesome.

  11. I think that bidding out the Thursday night game is an excellent idea. There would definitely be more revenue for the league. The players actually have practical solutions.

  12. Sure, Winston can figure out a way for the league to make millions of extra dollars, but he still has a lousy pad level out there.

  13. Don’t be fooled: the cable systems that don’t carry NFL Network aren’t doing it because they want access to Sunday Ticket; they’re doing it because they want CHEAP access to Sunday Ticket. When the contract is up for renewal, they complain that it costs too much. After the contract has been awarded, they flip-flop and say it’s unfair that only one company has Sunday Ticket. It’s just a bunch of posturing.

    As for the Thursday game package, it’s right where the NFL wants it – they’re simply not going to admit it. The NFL wants every satellite and cable system in the country to carry NFL Network at a premium per-subscriber price AND put it on the most basic channel tier. In order to accomplish that, they use their late season game package as leverage. They’d never sell that package to another network, lest they lose the ability to charge nearly whatever they want for a channel that’s seldom-watched from January to October. Why sell the Thursday package for a few hundred million to a network for two months when they can make more than that in subscriber fees over the course of an entire year?

  14. “it’s a great idea” —- yeah, like putting 50 advertiser patches on the uniforms is another “great idea” to max out the incoming money.

    Another great idea would be for the players to charge at least $300 per signature… c’mon Winston, how much do are you charging for your signature? why aren’t you maxing out your income capabilities by charging more and more and then even more? Why are you complaining about the owners when you yourself are passing up on so many maxing-out the income capabilities. Do you have 2nd, 3rd, or 4th job? Why not? Where’s your TV Show? Your blog with all the heavy advertising? Where? That’s more missed out opportunities to max-out your income.

    Oh got it… you want to just stand there and hold your hand out for more $$… from someone else.

  15. The quality of NFLN is great, the quantity is horrible. 10 hours of total access or 6 hours of Top 10 shows anyone?

  16. As someone who has cablevision as my cable provider (the only choice I have), this is getting ridiculous. I implore PFT to get more involved in pressuring the NFL to work something out with Cablevision.

    I don’t care if I have to pay $10 more a month for a sports package. I just want the damn games on my TV set. Yet NFL is not offering me this and no one is budging. Gets me very angry

  17. The next time the NFL wants a city to help finance a half-billion dollar stadium, the taxpayers should send through a bill that stipulates a stadium deal will only be done with the league and local team in exchange for a contractual guarantee that EVERY home game played there will be available on local television– no blackouts or pay-per-view. And a contractual guarantee that the leasing team will play ALL possible home games there, never depriving that city of the revenue associated with gameday by sending their team overseas. Make the NFL play a little more fair with us if they want us to pay for stadiums as well as the product. They can fund their own damn palaces otherwise.

  18. Those clamouring to get their Thursday night fix…be careful what you wish for, unless you’re a heavy sleeper after Papa starts talking….two words:
    Theismann and Millen.

  19. That sounds like a great idea. I mean, I as a fan do not want 18 games. Records will be irrelevant (though Dick “Night Train” Lane’s 14 interceptions record will probably be the only one safe, but Marino’s and Dickerson’s will definitely fall in 18 games). Networks WILL clamber to get this if offered. Hell, I’d bet even ABC would give my favorite show Grey’s Anatomy a 6 week hiatus to get a football package (because when the NFL comes on Thurday I use my DVR to record the show). This is a much better idea for gaining revenue than adding 2 more games that most of the fans do not want.

  20. @dewalt2990

    I think that the NFLN should show more of the shows that taught me football in the mid and late 80’s and early 90’s. My dad wasn’t into sports, so I learned football from Steve Sabol’s ‘This is the NFL’. They can show those shows, old games, not just Superbowl games, but how about a regular season game from Monday, October 23, 1978 Houston and Earl Campbell vs. The Pittsburgh Steelers. I mean, it doesn’t even have to be a big game, just a regular season game from the past. Give people a chance to see players like Earl Campbell and the Steelers Steel Curtain in person, even though it was a 24-17 game. Why not do more of that? Playoff games from the past, regular season games from the past. Maybe give this generation a chance to see a full game with the great Jim Brown and not just highlights. Come on, NFLN. Give us some football.

  21. Rosenthal – I’ve been getting NFL Network for years in NYC without a dish. You’ve just got to dump Time Warner for RCN. Or Fios, if you can get it. The lineup is almost exactly the same.

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