The recent hurricane proved the power of sports betting
Until Sunday, September 10th the biggest stories in the NFL were the Cowboys Ezekiel Elliott's lingering potential suspension and whether Colin Kaepernick would get a chance to play QB again. Maybe Tom Brady re-writing the record books and winning more Super Bowls with the Patriots into his 40's. Wipe that all aside now with one huge headline that's coincided with the power of Hurricane Irma's mighty force: The NFL's television ratings are currently down an astonishing 13% from last year and at a 20-year low. WHAT!!!
If you think the sky is falling, it is, and they're not letting you know at NFL corporate offices in New York. Now it's the networks and major advertisers that are loudly booing Commissioner Roger Goodell and looking for some answers – FAST. They want improvements immediately or his new contract negotiations may be stalled and could be out of a job in 2019 faster than Marvin Lewis or Chuck Pagano next week.
All kinds of theories are being passed around and pulled out of the hat as to why this particular disaster is occurring. Digging into the marketing research will yield qualified answers beyond opinions. But when Direct TV, Comcast, major TV networks and huge advertisers are seeing the selling price tags on NFL team franchises soaring beyond $2 billion dollars they want answers and more important SOLUTIONS delivered today. Basically, you don't get 10 minutes to call a conference with the football game on the line.
Many feel it is a temporary situation and a freak occurrence highlighted by unusual circumstances over the first two weeks of the season. Scoring has been way down coinciding with several boring games lacking exciting conclusions. Some people feel the growing population of millennials and young people are bored with the pace of the game and commercial time-outs. It's like the continuing death of "reactive" slot machines in casinos versus the growing popularity of eSports and other new faster paced entertainment options.
Without producing a 178-page report to the NFL, I can prove one very strong, experienced-based reason deciding their ratings dilemma. More important, a non-debatable way to not only erase that 13% deficit but perhaps improve it to plus 13%. They do not currently have legalized gambling in U.S. states beyond Nevada and Hurricane Irma delivered the message of its undebatable force.
Hurricane Preparation 101
Having been a veteran of previous hurricanes, I had experience of what to do preparing for one of mother nature's most vicious disasters. Plenty of water, flashlights, shutters, batteries, unrefrigerated food, etc. Also, being an experienced handicapper, I knew how to prepare. Get all wagers in well ahead somewhere within the list of preferred sportsbooks. When the time came that my cell phone died, I would have smartly secured all bets at Bovada, BetOnline, BookMaker, or Diamond Sports. But did the hurricane in Florida have to begin on a Sunday morning at 7:00AM!! Th very first NFL Sunday of the year. Why didn't the Gods choose any random Tuesday or Wednesday? I believe it was for good reason to change our world.
That's because Mother Nature wanted to teach the NFL a fateful lesson how to save their product and had to punish the league. On that Sunday, myself and virtually two-thirds of the entire state of Florida were deprived of watching the NFL and subsequently also checking feverishly on their wagering and Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) results. Almost 9 million people without power among the most dedicated football watchers (and bettors) in America. FYI...you can barely get a conventional radio signal during the height of a hurricane.
Hurricane Reality and the Eagles -1.5
Incidentally, at the peak of a hurricane you quickly forget that NFL football exists and you're more concerned that your house isn't torn down and your car isn't blown away watching through your shutters at 135mph winds. The fascinating part is as the winds subside to minor gale force at around 70mph you look for options to check out how your NFL team action is faring. Your home & car seem safe. It's time to drink some warm water and listen to a very fuzzy radio hoping to get a sports station update.
Many who were used to using their computers to place wagers at dependable offshore wagering sources likely felt uncomfortable using their phones to use their cell phones or to directly call. And perhaps some felt embarrassed to call uhh, "private sources" to place bets for late games and NFL Sunday Night Football in the middle of a weather disaster. That is, IF they could get through.
And if you're thinking you still have the full resources of your cell phone to check ESPN or any online wagering service apps, YOU DON'T. The first reason is that you DO NOT HAVE POWER and every click means draining battery cell usage for emergencies. And like a double shot of Jack Daniels, our greatest fix would be turning to NFL.com on the cell for live coverage and updates, right.
It was when I desperately admit "trying" to get on NFL.com and other popular sports apps that I learned a lesson about computer servers and Internet traffic. After 34 attempts to get on the NFL app I gave up realizing every guy in Florida was trying to do the same thing. It was like being in the biggest, hopeless traffic jam of all time. Plus, when I finally did get online it yielded the worst result possible. Simply one minute being on the NFL.com app viewing updates and watching replays used 6% of my battery cell time. Great. I got a 2nd quarter update on my Eagles -1.5 bet. But with almost no battery left I might not be able to emergency call someone having a heart attack in the middle of a hurricane. They might have listed the cause of death on my certificate: "Stupid, but he covered".
What Really Drives NFL Ratings
Yes, as previously mentioned it's time for the NFL to peer into the mirror and honestly admit why a majority of their fans are watching their product on television, not in person. And not order up an exhaustive research survey telling them what they want to know but rather "need to know". Surely, they need to learn the true reason why the NFL.com collapsed in Florida that Sunday. I will tell you it wasn't because fans were looking for highlights or DFS members were seeking yardage updates. Irma delivered the message that it was the best road to turn to for thousands of bettors to chart progress. Problem was too many were on the highway to get there.
Another key component of that report must be the enormous growing popularity of The NFL RedZone on Sundays. This is a hidden secret that Comcast is thrilled about and I believe the NFL purposely does not want to brag about. First, it competes with their NFL.com television program. Secondly and primarily is the obvious reason why people remained glued to this "extra pay service channel" all day long. It's to keep track of all wagers on a consistent and dependable basis as they are actually happening, not digitally or replay. When the Packers are up 42-7 over the Jets at the 2:00 minute warning, why are more viewers on NFL RedZone than watching the network feed Cowboys-Redskins 24-21 game in the 4th quarter? Anybody that had Over the 49.5 Total in the Packers/Jets game raise your hand.
Although a connecting word will not be said in Federal courtroom testimony in the upcoming hearing reviewing legalizing sports betting in the USA, I believe Hurricane Irma delivered a mighty message to the NFL in Florida. We likely will have more exciting games this Sunday and see more touchdowns scored. But TV customers are giving the NFL an obvious message why they're down 13% and at a 20-year low. I'm praying the answer isn't adding more server space to get on the NFL.com website in case another hurricane hits in a few weeks. While planning a few parlays, I suppose with plenty of drinking water and a bible, I should be prepared.
Glenn Greene covers the games from a betting angle every week exclusively at OSGA.com. For weekly betting insights, inlcuding previews and picks from Glenn, click here.