Twitter will stream at least five Arena Football League games

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The Arena Football League’s death spiral has been delayed, a little.

With Twitter not renewing its deal to stream 10 Thursday Night Football games, the social-media giant will stream at least five Arena Football League games in 2017.

The new comes during the AFL’s 30th’s anniversary season, a season that has seen the league shrink to a mere five teams: Philadelphia Soul, Tampa Bay Storm, Baltimore Brigade. Washington Valor. Cleveland Gladiators.

The 50-yard indoor game, still played on green cement, has at times provided live reps for future NFL players like Hall of Fame quarterback Kurt Warner. At most other times, not.

The league launched in 1987 with four teams, maxing out at 19 in three different seasons. In 2009, the AFL didn’t operate due to bankruptcy. But the league returned in 2010 with 15 teams. Eighteen played in 2011, and then the slide began — despite the arrival of celebrity owners like Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, and Vince Neil (pictured).

From 18 to 17 to 14 to 12 to eight and now only five.

Maybe this minimum-of-five-games streaming package is just what the AFL needs. While the NFL badly could use a developmental league (especially since it abandoned NFL Europa a decade ago), the nation has a limited appetite for non-NFL professional football. From the NFL to college football to local high-school games, the saturation point has been reached.

On one hand, that’s a shame. On the other hand, it’s a reality that’s been baked in to the last four decades, as non-NFL professional league after non-NFL professional league has tried and failed. The NFL surely would operate its own minor league if it were deemed to be potentially profitable, and not a drain on the parent company’s primary product.

Here’s hoping the Arena Football League once again becomes a viable developmental option for the NFL. But as the saying goes, wish in one hand and do something else in the other and see which one fills up first.

15 responses to “Twitter will stream at least five Arena Football League games

  1. The twitter stream works really well.

    I was on a flight to Korea last September that had wifi and watched a Pats game via twitter stream while over the middle of the Pacific Ocean no problem.

    Great use of technology.

  2. They are down to FIVE teams?! Wow.

    I used to enjoy Arena football. Some small city I lived in had several indoor league teams, usually for one or two seasons then they vanished into the night. Tickets, if you weren’t able to get them free, were reasonably priced. The tagline of “Catch a football, keep it; catch a player, throw him back!” was good marketing.

    I understood the economics of the moves in the NIFL and IFL, but haven’t realized the big league AFL was hurting that bad.

  3. As someone who’s been following the AFL since 2012 and using on a near-regular basis, there’s a lot of doom and gloom around the league year-in and year-out. This year is no different, but there’s some semblance of hope that the new Commissioner in Scott Butera will be able to turn things around with a more professional approach.

    Time will tell, but I hope it sticks around. Can sometimes be a better option than NFL games. (Refs are still awful, though.)

  4. I have an official Arena Football League football, signed by the Tampa Bay Storm’s QB at the time, sitting in a display case on a shelf. My mom was at a charity auction and, knowing I’m a Bucs fan, figured any vaguely football-related thing from Tampa would be just as good. I think she paid $20 for it. That’s one of my AFL stories.

    The other one I have is I once saw the Kurt Warner-led Iowa Barnstormers take on the Minnesota Fighting Pike, who only lasted one season. This is a tragedy, because I live in Minnesota now, and I think I would happily wear “Fighting Pike” gear every day of my life if they were still around, because that is just the most hilarious team name ever.

  5. I’m not sure I agree we have reached the point of over saturation. I can only speak for myself, but I think fans would watch “NFL Light” if it was done the right way.

    Think of it like this. We already have the NFL Network. So a platform for broadcasting games is already there. There are 32 NFL teams, with 31 stadiums that only get used for 4 months out of the year. I realize some are used for MLS, but that still leaves plenty of opportunity for more use.

    I am not saying all 32 teams would participate because there just isn’t that many players. But the NFL Light league could be every bit as good as the top echelon of college football. Start with 10 teams. The owners of the teams already own an NFL team. So take the Patriots and the Kraft family, as an example.

    The Patriots minor league affiliate could be the Foxboro Patriots, (like the Boston Red Sox have the Pawtucket Red Sox, etc). Same owner (Bob Kraft), same uniforms, same stadium, etc. If the league is there to make money, its a mistake. They need to be in it, not for profit, to break even at worst financially, BUT develop players. If they can make a few bucks at the same time, even better. I know a lot of people that would watch minor league football… Even if they make no money from the league, there is a financial value to their NFL team and to the NFL as a whole to develop these players. If all 32 teams were on board with developing the league, it would work. The teams split the costs evenly, and split any revenue evenly. In other words, lets say the Bills don’t have a minor league team, they still participate in the funding of the league, still pull in a portion of any profits, and still get access to any of the developed players

    The only difference with this system is that just because its the Foxboro Patriots, using Gillette Stadium, owned by Kraft, etc, the players are not property of the Patriots (opposite of minor league baseball where Pawsox players are property of the Red Sox). The players on these developmental teams have contracts with the league. Then there would need to be a process for getting those players on to a NFL roster. Maybe those players are draft eligible. Teams can either choose the 21 year old college prospect, or the 24 year old Minor league football prospect.

    NFL Europe didn’t have 32 teams (one for each NFL franchise), so it could be done, only done in America, where the fans have a personal connection to the franchises in the NFL.

  6. “but I think fans would watch “NFL Light” if it was done the right way.”

    Arguably, it never stopped working for NFL Europe. It failed to catch on in some cities (including London despite the alternate history Roger Goodell would have you believe) but it was pretty popular other places (Germany, in particular) and average attendance was near the 20,000 mark when they closed up shop permanently. And logically you’d think a developmental league would be a perfect fit for someplace you’re thinking of eventually putting a real franchise. But logic is frequently a stranger to the NFL.

  7. I would watch an NFL Light.

    Between the Super Bowl and Hall of Fame game, there’s what, three weeks of “action” in the NFL calendar? Run the season after draft, before Mandatory OTA’s, allow players to merge onto rosters during NFL training camps and in-season. College players that weren’t drafted (hundreds of bodies) would have another shot at opening some eyes, and they could find their next Romo, Warner, Cam Wake, etc.

  8. would watch an NFL Light.

    Between the Super Bowl and Hall of Fame game, there’s what, three weeks of “action” in the NFL calendar? Run the season after draft, before Mandatory OTA’s, allow players to merge onto rosters during NFL training camps and in-season.

    My gosh, you need a life.

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