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Sports Authority

Truth behind Cuban’s comments

| Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban likes to talk about a lot of things, and most recently he was talking about pigs.

According to ESPN.com, Cuban likened the NFL to greedy hogs during a pregame conference with reporters Sunday.

“I think the NFL is 10 years away from an implosion,” Cuban said. “I’m just telling you, pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered. And they’re getting hoggy. Just watch. Pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered. When you try to take it too far, people turn the other way.”

Looking at the NFL empire as it stands today makes Cuban’s scenario hard to imagine. For the NFL to implode, Americans would have to stop watching, and there are few things that seem more unlikely.

The 2014 Super Bowl was the most-watched television event in U.S. history, with 111.5 million viewers, and a single 30-second ad spot during the game cost around four million dollars.

Americans watch football, and they seem poised to keep watching. So what exactly could turn people away?

According to Cuban, the NFL will run into problems beginning with the league’s new television deals. The NFL expanded its agreements with CBS and the NFL Network in February to continue broadcasting games on Thursday nights, and to Cuban, the decision was poor from a business standpoint, no matter how much money it will rake in.

Cuban questioned the decision, telling reporters and ESPN.com, “They’re trying to take over every night of TV.” With that kind of strategy, Cuban argued, the NFL will stretch itself too thin and start to lose viewership to other big-time events: “It’s all football. At some point, the people get sick of it.”

Cuban might be on to something here. Although the NFL’s broadcasting expansion probably won’t cause too many Americans to stop watching football altogether, it might not be that good for the NFL.

One of the big draws of football for Americans is the compactness of the season. A person — even an extraordinarily busy person — could conceivably watch every single one of his or her favorite team’s games. That is pretty near impossible for a person to achieve during a 162-game baseball season, and even basketball and hockey make it difficult for fans to watch every game for their hometown teams.

Football achieves high ratings in large part because viewership is concentrated to a few days out of the week. Some people devote their entire Sundays to watching NFL games, and that kind of couch potato behavior is O.K. — because it’s one day out of the week.

Something that happens so rarely is a special event, and that is part of why people tune in. With football, you can’t say, “I’ll just watch tomorrow’s games when I’m less busy” because, most days, there are no games the next day.

And it should stay that way. Whether or not Cuban’s predictions are far-fetched or a real foreshadowing of things to come, the NFL should not expand past broadcasting three days a week. Returning to the two-day model might not even be a bad idea, especially since many teams dislike how the Thursday games disrupt their schedules.

The NFL might not be on the verge of collapse, but empires can and do fall, and Cuban’s business acumen is difficult to ignore. At the very least, the NFL should exercise caution in its business dealings and remember that it is not an invincible organization.

As Cuban told reporters, greed does not always pay: “I’m just telling you, when you’ve got a good thing and you get greedy, it always, always, always, always, always turns on you. That’s rule number one of business.”

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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