There were two blockbuster NFL stories in the past few days and both will have significant impact for years to come.
The $765 million settlement with more than 4,500 retired players gives the NFL a clearer path to deal with the serious repercussions of head trauma without admitting any wrongdoing in years past. The settlement does not include an admission from the NFL that it hid information from players of the past about the long term dangers of head injuries sustained when they played.
[RELATED: NFL, players to settle concussion lawsuits]
Many industry observers believe that this was a win for the NFL and its owners. This cash payoff will have many levels of complexity before money ends up in the hands of the affected players, but it should ease the medical cost burdens of many ex NFLers who are suffering various forms of neurological damage.
It is ironic that on the day of the settlement the NCAA kicked off its football season on national TV with a match-up between South Carolina’s Gamecocks and the Tarheels of North Carolina. Was it mere coincidence that South Carolina was on the main stage? The reason for this game was clearly to focus national attention on the “The Concussionator,” Jadeveon Clowney of South Carolina. He's the man whose atomic-bomb-helmet-separating hit on Michigan’s Vincent Smith has been played on You Tube more than Miley Cyrus' MTV meltdown. No matter what lawsuits are to come in the future relating to football head injuries, we as fans can’t get enough of the T-Bone collisions that define the sport's DNA.
With much less national publicity, the other NFL mega-event took place in the Silicon Valley a few weeks ago when Google’s CEO Larry Page and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell met to discuss the Sunday Ticket package of games that Direct TV is presently distributing. Direct TV’s rights to Sunday Ticket expire at the end of the 2014 season and Google could be interested in positioning itself to outbid the satellite company in the future. NFL rights fees will be no object.
Live sports have been, are and will continue to be the ultimate eye magnet. TV ratings prove that the NFL has the strongest pull on sports fans eyeballs and wallets. Silicon Valley companies are global entities and the NFL has its eyes on growth. The next great revenue generating opportunity is with tech companies monetizing their hundreds of millions of users through sports. The NFL is always finding bigger banks to fuel its business engine. The $765 million dollar concussion case payout can be repaid many times over with the rights fee that the NFL may negotiate with Google and other like tech giants.
The NFL is a leader in companies looking for live content so they can better sell devices. Verizon recently extended it league deal for $1 billion over four years starting in 2014 to show games on its wireless devices. Verizon outbid Sprint three years ago.
DirectTV sacked Dish Network in large part because of its broadcast deal with the NFL. DirectTV started its deal in 1998 with average annual payments of $130 million and now writes a check for a cool billion. Google could write a precedent-setting check in the multiple billions and the NFL will tick off another revenue box on its growth plan.
The media history of sports has a fear factor that new mediums will cannibalize the less technological savvy and advanced.
Sports radio didn’t kill newspapers.
TV didn’t put radio out of business.
Cable only enhanced Over the Air.
Live Streaming didn’t put an end to TV.
Now Google and the NFL may be creating a new product which will only help to grow the strongest sports cash register on earth.