By now you’ve likely heard. There are two new professional football leagues vying for the opening left by the NFL’s most recent woes. Just a few years ago an alternate league would have been unthinkable, but the NFL has seen ratings drops while the player protests, and the head injury issues erode their stranglehold on all things football in the US.
Enter Chuck Ebersol and Vince McMahon. Ebersol is the son of former NBC Sports President Dick Ebersol, who was a partner of Vince McMahon in the failed XFL experiment from 1999. Fast forward almost 20 years and it appears the landscape has changed — even if the central players have not.
While all these machinations are fascinating, what does The Alliance of American Football (AAF) mean to sports bar’s operations and marketing efforts?
Below are three potential advantages from the formation of a competitive professional football league and how they may impact your sports bar.
AAF & Fantasy Football
The Alliance of American Football (AAF), the league proposed by Chuck Ebersol, already has a TV contract and a start date. CBS has agreed to show one game weekly on CSBS Sports Network, as well as their championship game. The remainder of the eight-team league’s games will be available via streaming. Their schedule start date is set for February 9, 2019; exactly one week after Super Bowl LIII.
A central objective of The Alliance is to provide a facility for fantasy football enthusiasts to continue fielding teams and compete during their entire 10 week season. Ebersol has observed there are 59 million regular fantasy players each year and the AAF will give them an outlet, as well as focusing itself on the fantasy experience.
An operator need only look in his own dining room in September to know just how valuable the fantasy player is to their business. Getting a 10-week extension for fantasy participants can only help operators in that sweet spot between the end of the NFL and start of March Madness. Fantasy drafts, viewing parties, and even proprietary leagues for interested fantasy players/your guests all make the league’s entry intriguing.
Rules Changes Affect the Viewing Experience
One of the chief complaints about the NFL is that their games are too long and filled with unnecessary commercial breaks. Fans feel abused by the “score > timeout > extra point try > timeout > kick-off > timeout > regular play” approach used by the NFL.
The Alliance has committed to some serious changes that will make the viewing experience fairly streamlined. In addition to a 30 second game clock (the NFL’s is 45 seconds), there will be no kickoffs and the onside kick will be replaced with the team that is down getting the ball on their 35 with a fourth and 10.
The rules changes should be especially interesting to sports bar operators because it means that these games will last only 2-2.5 hours. That’s far shorter than the average NFL game which lasts more than three hours. If the games attract any attention, this will become a terrific advantage over the NFL viewing experience for restaurants that can’t turn a table until a game ends.
We’ve heard so many complaints about the cost of the NFL Sunday Ticket and how it’s increased substantially in the past 10 years. The CBS contract with The Alliance means one of the four games per week will be on CBS Sports Network, but the other three games will be exclusively on streaming. If you aren’t currently rigged for streaming this may be a perfect impetus to get on board.
This is where you promote what a great place your location is to watch your favorite events. By making these stream-only games available to your guests, you can give your guests access to new, different and exciting content they want and will serve as a way to differentiate yourself from the other sports bars that just want to get by with the minimal.
Remember, your guests are visiting you for a great sports viewing experience. Streaming is a logical part of that specific aim. It also gives guests that are energized by the new league a place to share their passion and watch multiple games. Essentially, any good content you can provide, you should twist yourself into knots to make available to your guests.
Any honest analysis of what competition for pro football means to your bar must include the very real possibility that it will mean absolutely nothing. The new leagues are likely to stir some controversy, but it won’t change the way the NFL makes their money and probably won’t steal many fans. Think of the addition of the XFL and The Alliance as football supplementation – new leagues, new players, and more games for you to market to your guests. However, if we get lucky, it might just change how you do for the better!