The NFL is officially the world’s largest sports league, and with major media deals and in-game attendance at record levels, the league is well-positioned to achieve Commissioner Roger Goodell’s target of $25 billion in total revenue by the year 2027, if not sooner. It is estimated that they are already nearing the $20 billion mark. However, the NFL recognizes that the landscape is always evolving, and the league must focus on the next steps to sustain its growth.
Exploring New Media Opportunities: This year, the NFL secured a major broadcast deal, as they are switching their Sunday Ticket television package to YouTube TV. This switch has increased their revenue by half a billion dollars for a total of $2 billion, in comparison to the $1.5 billion DirectTV was paying. They’ve also restructured their deals with major networks such as CBS, NBC, ESPN, and FOX, and switched Thursday Night Football to Amazon Prime Video, increasing their revenue on the networks alone to $4.29 billion. A major number on their way to a 25 billion dollar revenue target.
The NFL also continues to explore other media avenues, both at home and overseas. The league has followed the lead of many other companies by launching new direct-to-consumer efforts and throwing a “plus” on the end of it; NFL+ is a great response to the fans’ increasing preference for digital offerings. Moreover, the NFL has begun selling low-latency feeds, which are very highly valued by sportsbooks, and has recently invested in a joint venture with Skydance Sports to create a multi-sport production studio.
Reevaluating the Media Portfolio: The NFL has a diverse media portfolio that includes NFL+, NFL.com, and NFL Network. NFL+ was a successful launch, allowing users to stream games on-demand after they air, and stream local prime-time games live as they happen. NFL.com has been a useful resource for years and is still very valuable, with endless articles and information about everything football. However, with many users making the switch over to YouTube TV, NFL Network could see a drop in viewership and purchases from DirectTV users. To combat this, the NFL has held discussions with other streaming companies, such as Google and Apple. They are looking for a new partnership that can provide more streamable content to keep up with the current climate.
Focus on International Growth: Taking notice of the NBA’s overseas success, the NFL is continuing to step up efforts to expand globally. The NFL’s expansion has seen them host games in London, Mexico, Japan, and Germany to name a few. Their strongest relationship is with the United Kingdom as they have played at least one regular season game in London every year since 2007. In fact, in 2015 the NFL renewed their deal with London to play two games a year in Wembley Stadium through 2020 (now 2025) with the Jacksonville Jaguars playing at least one of the two games in place of a home game for the duration of the contract. This has created a huge following for the Jags in London as it has become an annual tradition to see them take the field in the iconic London venue. International games create fanbases in other countries but also help the NFL expand TV viewership in the U.S.
Venture Investing for Long-Term Growth: In 2013, the NFL launched 32 Equity, which was not big news at the time, but has since made the league tens of millions. When the project was first launched, each franchise was required to contribute $1 million each. By 2019 they had to invest an extra $2 million, and most recently in 2022, each franchise invested $5 million more. That total of just $8 million invested by each franchise has generated returns of over $100 million each, which is being reinvested for even larger profits. So far, 32 Equity has invested in Fanatics, Hyperice, Genius Sports, and NOBULL, with their most successful investment being Fanatics. The 3% stake in Fanatics purchased in 2017 has multiplied its value ten times over.
Team Revenue and the Soaring Value of NFL Franchises: Team revenue contributes a significant portion of the NFL’s overall income, and the league’s efforts to bolster franchise values have been instrumental in reaching its 25 billion dollar goal. With the influx of new stadiums, relocations, and renovations to existing stadiums, NFL teams have been able to create state-of-the-art fan experiences, attracting more spectators and driving up ticket sales and concessions.
In 2016, the former St. Louis Rams moved to Los Angeles, and a year later the San Diego Chargers became the Los Angeles Chargers. The addition of two NFL franchises to one of the most financially dominant sports markets was a huge move for the league. From 2015 to 2022, the Rams’ value increased from $1.5 billion to $6.2 billion, while the Chargers jumped in value from $2.1 billion to $3.9 billion. Arguably just as impressive are the Las Vegas Raiders, who moved from the small market of Oakland into the brand-new, booming sports market of Las Vegas and increased their value from 3.1 billion to 5.1 billion. For some perspective, the Raiders were ranked 31 out of 32 in NFL franchise value; they now rank 9th.
The franchises that are not relocating have invested in improving the gameday experience at home. Some of the most notable improvements in recent years have come from teams building brand-new, modernized stadiums, such as the 49ers in 2014, the Vikings in 2016, and the Falcons in 2017, to name a few. Meanwhile, other teams, such as the Patriots and the Bears, have given their aging stadiums some much-needed renovations. Two more franchises, the Titans and the Bills, have been approved to begin building their future new homes.
Most recently, the Washington Commanders have been sold in a deal worth a whopping $6.05 billion, completely shattering the old record of $4.65 billion from when the Denver Broncos were sold in 2022. The previous record before that was $2.275 billion in 2018. Clearly, the trend is going up, and fast.
Transforming the Regular Season: In an effort to provide fans with more meaningful games, the NFL made a pivotal decision in 2021 to remove one preseason game and add a game to the regular season, making the regular season 18 weeks long. The extra game means more opportunity for prime-time slots and intense matchups with playoff implications, again increasing revenue.
The NFL’s journey toward a 25 billion dollar revenue goal exemplifies the league’s business-minded and forward-thinking approach. Through strategic partnerships with prominent broadcasters, innovative subscription services, and a keen focus on enhancing fan experiences domestically and internationally, the NFL continues to grow its financial prowess. Simultaneously, team revenue strategies and the expansion of the regular season have also contributed to the league’s impressive revenue growth. As the NFL continues to evolve and adapt to quickly changing consumer preferences and market dynamics, it remains poised to reach new heights and solidify its position as a leading force in the world of sports.
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