How to balance dollars against eyeballs in light of your views on that issue

MIDTERM PAPER TOPIC

You are a newly hired staffer at the NFL’s Media Group. You have just received your first assignment: to outline for the head of NFL media strategy your thoughts on an up-to-date working definition of “best available screen” for purposes of (a) informing the strategy for renewal of the NFL’s media contracts in 2022, and (b) determining the length of the renewal contracts to be negotiated in that year.

Your boss has outlined how the NFL’s working definition of “best available screen” (the platform on which the NFL’s media strategy is centered) has changed over time – from “protect over-the-air broadcasters” in the early 1990s, to “engage fans on lean-forward screens” around the turn of the century, to “personalized content” and a hearty debate over “mobile first” over the past few years. Your boss has also reminded you that despite these changes, for the moment the broadcasters and legacy platforms (ESPN and DirecTV) still account for a vastly disproportionate share of NFL media revenues (around 90% of the $7 billion total) even though the multichannel (cable and satellite) universe is shrinking and the streamed digital video distribution model (mobile and otherwise) is growing rapidly (especially among Millennials). He has asked that you make sure to take account of these facts and trends as you think about the video distribution platform on which the NFL should focus its media strategy for 2022 and thereafter – and about how to balance dollars against eyeballs in light of your views on that issue.

In terms of the dollars against eyeballs trade off, your boss has noted that the big broadcast/multichannel video revenue stream provides financial security in an era where “television” (now “video by all means and media”) is changing rapidly, but that clinging to the traditional platforms for too long could impair NFL efforts to develop fans among the Millennials and subsequent generations. He’s interested in your thoughts on how to accelerate the financial returns from newer platforms – e.g., by increasing personification options and “up sells” such as data feeds – as well as whether to try to accelerate such returns, and if so, the time frame over which it should be done – i.e., is the 2022 contract the time to move, or should it be the next contract cycle? And if it’s the next contract cycle, when would you suggest that start?

In this context, your boss has noted that most rights owners have shifted their risks onto their media partners by pushing their rights deals out for ten years or more, but he is concerned that if the NFL follows suit its broadcasts will not evolve and improve in an era where flat ratings (after several years of decline) and aging NFL viewer demographics lead him to think that perhaps some evolution is needed.

Your boss is a busy man, and he has asked you to outline your thoughts in bullet points, with some supporting text as needed. He does not want “marketing-speak” – just facts and concrete opinions, with minimal padding. He has asked that your paper be four to eight double-spaced pages, and that you err on the side of brevity to the extent possible.

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