Good Or Bad Idea: Pay-Per-View Super Bowl?


Good Or Bad Idea: Pay-Per-View Super Bowl? | Sports Takes & News |

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The three words that NFL fans have long heard associated with the Super Bowl has returned. Those words are “Pay-Per-View” and are being spoken by a former network executive as the potential path the league might take to make more cash in future years. Will Super Bowl Sunday become a Pay-Per-View event, and if so, is it a good or bad idea? 

John Skipper was once the president of ESPN before leaving the four-lettered network, and is now executive chairman of DAZN. Speaking on “The Dan Le Batard Show” (with whom he is now a partner of), Skipper was asked how the NFL might look to recoup some of the millions in lost revenue as part of the Covid pandemic. The answer was simply, “Super Bowl — take that to pay-per-view … that’s how they’re going to replace the money someday,” Skipper explained. 

While the NFL declined to comment on Skipper’s remarks, media experts told Front Office Sports the league could charge as much as $200 per household to those who wish to watch the Super Bowl on PPV. By comparison, Mayweather vs. Pacquiao in 2015 and Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor in 2017 charged $99.95/$89.95 for HD and standard broadcasts. The 2015 fight drew in 4.6 million viewers and generated $600 Million in revenue, still the best ever for such an event.

Older NFL fans like myself have been hearing about the NFL going PPV since the days of Mike Tyson ruling the heavyweight division of boxing. With so many people using Super Bowl Sunday as a holiday and the game sliding one week deeper into February because of the 17-game schedule, placing the game more often than not on Presidents’ Day weekend, the potential for setting up watch parties by having fans huddle up in one place is there. 

The biggest fear in setting up an exclusive pay-per-view game of any kind, even with the Super Bowl, is fans may not like the matchup, have a strong rooting interest, or may not want to put too much effort into watching a game that they have always had access to for free. All these factors would likely lower the 100+ Million viewers that networks get every year for the NFL’s final game of the season; and could put a dent in the NFL shield as being the all-powerful media giant it is now.

Those same experts that predict that $200 would be the asking price for a Super Bowl, also feel that the change to a PPV Super Bowl is small, yet still out there. As many people have seen in the digital world, the balance between sharing content for free or putting it behind a pay wall is something everyone is dealing with. For the NFL, who has long been the most freely available of sports to its fans, to suddenly put a $200 price tag on the only game tens of millions watch would be short-sighted and foolish. It would also be too risky since there may be years when a pair of teams doesn’t inspire the public’s confidence that a good game will take place, and those televisions may not be turned on.

If the NFL put up the Super Bowl by itself the way the Olympics are put up for bid, the numbers they are looking to achieve would be there, but those same bidders may not want or need to bid on the 18-week season if they were the ones who owned the rights to the last game. Then again, since the NFL is still providing 45 of the top 50 watched TV shows on an annual basis, why would the league want to change, or the networks allow them to do so? Because once you are talking about billions of dollars for a product, does it really matter if a few more hundreds of millions are added for one more game?

The fact is that if the NFL thought going per-per-view for its premiere games or for the Super Bowl was a good idea, they would have already done so. Since they have not, it’s all the proof we need that the biggest television event of the year will likely always be on free TV, right where it always has been and always should be. 

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