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Vandermeer's View: NFL plans for changing TV future


Just three years away from its 100th season, the NFL is holding its annual meeting here in Boca Raton, Florida with an eye on what Bob McNair calls "a fast changing environment."

Naturally, there is plenty of talk here about player safety (the league has 13 rule changes in recent years geared toward safety). But to me, the evolving world of television is fascinating in how it relates to the NFL.

The immense popularity of the league was built by a weekly showcase on television, supported by everything from the blackout rule to the salary cap to fantasy football.

In the next year, the TV screen will cease to be the dominant form of media consumption for the first time since 1953. That was two years into the "I Love Lucy" run (kids, that was a real popular show featuring a zany redhead and her zany Cuban singer husband and… never mind).

In the face of declining TV audiences, the NFL defies logic. While primetime television viewership is down in the last decade, the NFL is up. And growing. But the league knows that it must continue to jump into the mobile fray like it did last season when Yahoo broadcast the Sunday morning London game with the Jags and the Bills on the web only. This year's Thursday night package will be streamed and also shared by three networks.

"The digital age has really changed things. There are so many more ways to reach out to your fans and many opportunities exist," McNair told us on Texans TV.

You're probably reading this on your smartphone. If you're under 30, statistics say you check it an average of 74 times per day. Some of you do that before lunch. And much of that is to consume social media. I'm not much of a Snapchat guy myself, but the Texans are pouring a truckload of content through it (add us at texansofficial) as 72 million people checked out the NFL through Snapchat last year.

The other thing to watch for on the horizon is the influx of virtual and augmented reality in the sports media landscape. I know that 3-D glasses made those sets a tough sell in a lot of homes, but what virtual reality will do for your viewing experience might make those huge goggles that are necessary not much of a problem when you consider the benefits. They have a mind-blowing exhibit here that features everything from a hologram-type field with a live game on your coffee table to a living 'fathead' of a player telling you about his stats while standing in your living room.

The one thing you can always count on with technology is change. And you can count on the NFL to do its best to be right in step with whatever can grow the game of football.

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