Deion Sanders’ show “21 & Prime” is a casualty of a NFL Network budget cut. Four other shows also will be sacrificed as the NFL redirects funds to mark the league’s 100th anniversary.
Other shows on the NFL Network’s chopping block include “Mic’d Up,” “Power Rankings,” “Pick’em” and “Playbook.” The jury is still out whether or not the weekend edition of “Good Morning Football” will survive.
NFL Network Spokesman told the New York Post,
“As part of an increased investment in programming and content for 2019, NFL Network will unveil several shows geared towards a celebration of the NFL’s 100th season. These shows will replace a handful of existing shows from our 2018 schedule.”
NFL Event Spending Spree
NFL Network has not released any specifics about new anniversary-themed shows. It is apparent, however, that the NFL is spending more money celebrating its centennial.
For instance, the NFL’s dinner party Super Bowl ad couldn’t have come cheap. Directed by Peter Berg, well known actor and executive producer of the television show “Friday Night Lights,” the ad featured roughly 50 legends of football. Entitled “The 100-Year Game,” the ad topped USA Today’s 2019 Super Bowl rankings.
The league seemed to spare no expense on its anniversary-themed 2019 NFL Draft in Nashville. Over 600,000 people attended the three-day event in Nashville. Nielsen reported that the draft, aired on ESPN, ABC and NFL Network, averaged 6.1 million viewers, up from 5.5. million last year. And there is no doubt that the 2020 Super Bowl spending will be off the charts.
But are network budget cuts for one-off event spending the right trade off — especially in a year of expanded legal sports betting?
Network Cuts in Year of the Sports Bettor
Last year, Nielsen released a report suggesting that the NFL stood to rake in billions from the expansion of legal sports betting. A $20 million programming budget cut seems like small potatoes in the scheme of things.
Both ESPN and Fox Sports have both added betting-themed programming in the past year. Fox Sports started airing “Lock It In” last summer and ESPN launched “Daily Wager” in March. Every major league sports franchise from IndyCar to Major League Soccer is looking for a way to use the expansion of sports betting to connect with a new fan base. Cutting NFL Network’s budget — especially this year — seems to be out of step with the rest of the industry.
While the NFL spends this year finding ways to celebrate its rich past, it would be a missed opportunity if it did not find a way to invest in its future.