Vandermeer’s View: Findings from the NFL Annual Meetings

When you hear about the NFL Annual Meeting (nicknamed 'the owners meetings') you mostly think about the league brass voting on rules changes and national media people doing their shows on lush hotel lawns.

But there’s so much more to it. For instance - not to make it about me, but, there’s MY reaction to things. I, like you, have been a huge fan of this league for a long time. So the inner-child-fan in me really comes out when I’m in line to get shrimp cocktail with Sean Payton – or when I accidentally run over John Harbaugh because I have difficulty reading Twitter and walking at the same time.

OK, back to the important stuff.

The league continues to thrive on television. It is the best performing programming on TV by miles. Ratings were up 6 percent in 2018. And the gap between NFL games and other TV sports and entertainment programming has never been greater. It would be like me trying to cover DeAndre Hopkins.

A lot of factors go into this. The NFL enjoyed its most explosive offensive season, with a tighter margin of victory. The powers-that-be also cut the amount of commercial breaks by 20 percent. Football has a stranglehold on the American viewing public like no other sport.

But the league knows that Generation Z (12-24 year olds) basically came out of the womb with a smart phone in hand. Live streaming was up 85 percent last season. And although the total number of people watching NFL games on the phone is tiny in comparison with the tube, it’s a young, growing, attractive audience that needs to be nurtured.

That’s one reason why your Texans will be available to watch on HoustonTexans.com and on the Texans App starting this coming season. This will be for the Houston market (or where the TV ‘map’ permits) only. If you are a Texans fan in Bangor, you’ll likely have to get the DIRECTV package, unless the team is on in prime time (and you can bet that’s going to happen a bunch this season). In any case, this is a big leap for the league and its fans.

It’s the 100th season and you’ll be reminded of this quite a bit. It’s an amazing milestone and the fans will benefit. There’s a bunch of associated programming and events. One of the cool, new shows will be Peyton’s Places, with you-know-who (look, he was public enemy number one when he was playing, but now I find him entertaining).

I saw a couple of preview shots and Manning does something fun with J.J. Watt, and even Dan Pastorini, as he tours the country and pays homage to the history of the game.

I know hearing about player safety is like hearing about tax law, to some of you. But it is important and it’s a continuing emphasis for this league. Last season, concussions were down almost 30 percent. Quarterbacks stayed healthier. This is all good news.

Anyway, there’s so much more to say about what’s going on here. For instance, I have many opinions on the rule proposals but they don’t let me into those meetings.

Be listening to Texans All Access (weeknights at 6 p.m. on Sports Radio 610, or in podcast form) for the latest from Phoenix. For now, I need to go find some more shrimp cocktail.

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