TV money would be a potential catalyst for an NFL-style Super League

Los Angeles Rams v Dallas Cowboys
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Talk of a soccer Super League has emerged and intensified in recent days. On Monday, we drafted a potential eight-team NFL Super League.

Also on Monday, the question emerged during a visit with The Rich Eisen Show as to whether the NFL ever could have a Super League of its own. Given that there’s only one league and not various organizations spread over various countries makes the situation inherently dissimilar. However, there’s only way that, in time, the NFL could break into multiple leagues.

The key becomes the broadcast antitrust exemption. For decades, it has allowed the NFL to sell its TV rights collectively, with any network that wants the most desirable teams also potentially getting the least desirable teams. That in turn makes it easier for the 32 teams to share TV revenue, preventing a have’s and have-a-lot-more’s scenario.

If the antitrust exemption for TV rights ever disappears (some members of Congress currently are discussing taking it away from baseball due to the George All-Star Game controversy), all bets would be off. The Cowboys would sell the rights to their home games to the highest bidder, as would other teams with national followings. At the other end of the spectrum would be the teams that don’t draw the same kind of rating. (They know who they are.)

Would owners continue to share the revenue generated by individual TV deals? If not, would the current model of a salary cap driven by total league revenue survive? For the low-earning teams, a cap driven by the much higher revenues earned by the most popular teams in the league would chew into the profit margin.

It potentially wouldn’t be sustainable. It possibly would require the league to split in two, with the most popular and profitable teams in one league and everyone else in the other.

That’s a long way off, and it depends on many things happening. The league losing its broadcast antitrust exemption may not be required, however. As streaming continues to rise, there’s a strong argument to be made that the broadcast antitrust exemption are drafted in the early 1960s doesn’t apply to streaming.

To resolve that point, a company that wants to, for example, buy the Dallas Cowboys’ streaming rights would have to file a lawsuit, alleging that the NFL consists of 32 individual businesses and that the act of selling the streaming rights collectively amounts to an antitrust violation. As streaming becomes larger and more profitable, and as the space becomes more competitive, the possibility of that happening will increase.

While nothing like that would happen any time soon, it’s worth at least acknowledging the possibility that, as the NFL makes more and more money and with more and more money to be made, the stakes will become too high and the dollars will become too great for this issue not to move to the front burner and approach full boil.

16 responses to “TV money would be a potential catalyst for an NFL-style Super League

  1. The sports aren’t similar. Soccer is attempting to franchise like the NFL. End of story.

  2. With the salary cap – hard to envision. Baseball is another story, some owners simply don’t give a damn about spending some of the cash towards fielding a competitive team.

  3. The Dallas Cowboys would belong to the below average league because they are not super.

  4. I don’t see any chance this happens. The NFL continues to drive increasing revenue through TV and streaming rights, as well as gaining increasing popularity around the globe. Why destroy a model that works.

  5. Not a bad idea. Teams like the Vikings, Chargers, Lions, and Jags wouldn’t make the cut, but maybe they could be in a minor league. The talent is too watered down right now and getting rid of the teams that don’t much matter would be a good thing.

  6. Call me crazy but I’m pretty sure the NFL *is* the Super League. Even CFL fans would admit that the Jets are one of the 32 best football teams in the world.

  7. The last time this kind of thing happened, the NFL merged with the AFL. The NFL doesn’t really want competition. It’s absurd to think they would want to compete with itself.

  8. Just constrict the league down to 20 teams.
    There are too many teams in ALL major team sports in the US.
    I know, it’ll never happen.

  9. The super league that is being talked about in Europe, that set up for sports, and our set up here in USA and the NFL specifically have almost NOTHING in common. The NFL is a unicorn in global sports nothing really is like it and please don’t bring up the CFL. We have set places for the teams, they do not leave the league because of bad performance they just become a joke like my lions or the Jets. Alabama and Clemson, or two Arena teams don’t come up and take their place. Also every town big and small in UK, a LOt of Europe has a club of some size and the community lives and dies with it. But it might be smaller than a Texas High School football game in most cases. A team of semi pros dream of getting just lucky enough to play against Liverpool or chelsea cause that’s possible. The little fish can rise up and become big fish, the big fish can mismanage and get sent to the league below, and then down again, and down again. Comparing hypothetical models of the two has no benefit cause other than being played by humans who get paid, and customers who watch and pay for it there is almost nothing in common between the 2.

  10. The Super League is reportedly now dead with several teams already announcing they’re pulling out following fan protests. The NFL would be wise to see how that went down because they’d face the same thing. And even if they did spin off some teams into a Super League where would that leave the second-tier teams? In essence the NFL would be creating a relegation sort of situation and that doesn’t sound smart at all for the long-term. If you tell fans their team isn’t top-level any longer they’ll eventually listen to you and lose interest.

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