By Jim McCarthy Apr 26, 2011 0 comments

Will There Be an NFL Season? And What Does That Mean to You?

I have to say that I’m spectacularly uninterested in the ups and downs of what’s going on between the NFL Players and the League and Owners.  That’s not because I don’t like football.  I’m a big fan.  It’s just that the only thing I want to hear is “the lockout’s over. Football starts again as scheduled.”

Alas, that’s not where we are.  The owners locked out the players six weeks ago, but yesterday a judge ruled that they couldn’t do that and ordered the teams to re-open their facilities to the players.  Basically, it told the teams to let the players return to work.  If you want to see NFL commissioner Roger Goodell’s (in my opinion slightly deceptive) thoughts on the subject in today’s WSJ, here they are.  In summary, he thinks that a decision which forces work to start again without a collective bargaining agreement is a really bad idea that tears down the fabric of the league’s success of the last decades.  I say it’s slightly deceptive because he gives the impression that this is what the players want, when in reality, they didn’t strike; they were locked out.

Anyway, the more intriguing question is this: what does it mean if there’s no NFL season?

The obvious beneficiary is college football in terms of both stadium attendance and television, advertising and online revenue (including gambling, don’t forget.)

But what about all those Sundays and Monday nights that suddenly come free again?  It reminds me a bit of this talk by Clay Shirky at a TED conference a couple years back, who talked about the ‘cognitive surplus’ that has come from people watching less television and doing less of other more traditional forms of “passive” media.  It’s well worth watching:

Here’s the idea and a challenge to the live entertainment business: if there’s an NFL lockout that keeps the teams off the field this fall, what can you do to absorb that entire ‘cognitive surplus’ as opposed to letting it go to playing Fruit Ninja or watching When Animals Attack 13. How can you plan to be so involving, absorbing and compelling that some part of that lost tribe of NFL fans would spend its time engaging with you and your organization and your shows, performances, and games?

And then let’s suppose they do play (which seems likely to me). Do it anyway. If you’re ready to take up the slack for the most popular type of entertainment, arguably, in the whole country, you’re better off regardless of whether they play.

(And of course, to our friends at the teams around the NFL, we hope you’re up and running as soon as possible!)

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