Sometimes I wish the NFL Annual Meeting was held at the airport Marriot in Des Moines. Here in Palm Beach, the ocean is a few feet away and I've seen it only once. Actually getting into it seems like a pipe dream.
But (and this is a BIG but) I am NOT complaining. I only opened that way to make you think that….er…I mean, to let you know that I'm working.
The Combine is my favorite offseason event but this is right up there close to it. When you're in line to get hors d'oeuvres with Andy Reid and Ron Rivera you realize this is a unique experience.
I don't get to go into every session. They keep the inner circle small for the voting. But league employees in attendance (that's me!) go to certain ones including the kickoff meeting and that's special. The league officers, led by Roger Goodell, go over the status of the game and growth opportunities.
Media reported a 36.9 Super Bowl Rating, which was a little low in your traditional (all the kids say 'trad') ratings measurements. But (another BIG but) the streaming and Spanish-language numbers took it over the top. The stream has exploded with over 11 million people consuming the game that way, as it's easier than ever just to turn on the NFL app and watch the action.
One reason the league is so popular is balance. Eighteen teams were alive for the postseason in the final weekend of action. 20% of all games came down to a score in the final minute. And we all know that being within reach of the lead in the final quarter feels like an NFL staple. Plus, the last 17 Super Bowls haven't had a repeat winner.
The balance is attributed to the fact that the league decided a lonnnng time ago (this is me talking now, not the league meeting) to split the national TV revenue equally, creating competitive balance. 72% of the total NFL pie gets divided among the 32 teams. The next closest American sports league divides 50% of the revenue. Everyone has a shot to bounce back.
Safety always gets brought up here. Concussions were down 25% and have been on a steady decline. Even though the NFL expanded to a 17-game season (that's 16 more games played), there were no more injuries than in a 16-game schedule, highlighted by the decline in concussions.
Every league, every media outlet, every product always wants to draw from as young a target group as possible. The NFL is striving to reach Generation Alpha (that's VanderKid II's group, born after 2011) with the Nickelodeon programming and, more importantly, continued emphasis on digital and social media. Ticket buying in the 18-24 year old group is up as well, a good sign for growth.
The NFL also wants your kid to play either flag or tackle football. Flag growth is way up (I coach my kid's team and run the VanderOffense – ok, I'll shut up now). There are 3.8 million kids playing flag or tackle and the league believes they will become fans.
The most important thing is to keep improving the game. Overtime is being voted on as well as diversity and inclusion initiatives. The one thing I've noticed since coming to these meetings a decade ago is how the NFL is determined not to stand pat. They know that if they stand still it doesn't create growth. They always want to get better.
That's it for now. I'm going to get in the dessert line. I would say Lovie Smith and Nick Caserio would be there but have you seen these guys?! They're probably at the gym.