Cuban: NFL issues go beyond TV
Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban elaborated on his controversial opinion that the NFL "is 10 years away from an implosion" in a 1,585-word Facebook post published Monday night, upping the ante to include player safety and behavioral issues as additional threats to pro football's future.
Cuban's comments about the NFL on Sunday night focused on what he perceives as "greed" by the country's most popular sports league.
He contended that the oversaturation of the NFL's expanding television package would eventually turn off fans. That subject was the third of five points in Cuban's Facebook post to explain his prediction for a drastic decline in the popularity of the NFL.
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello offered a sarcastic reply to Cuban via Twitter.
Dear Mark: We appreciate your interest & for taking time to share your views. It's the passion of fans like you that makes the NFL special.- Greg Aiello (@gregaiello) March 25, 2014
Cuban's first point was that the decline of popularity of football at the youth level due to safety issues could have a trickle-up effect. Concussions, in particular, are a hot-button issue for the NFL office.
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"I wouldn't want my son playing football, would you?" Cuban wrote. "I'm sure helmet technology will improve over the next 10 years, but why risk it? There are plenty of sports to play. Plenty of ways to get exercise and if my son decided to do anything outside of sports and never pick up any ball of any kind, I'm fine with that. I can think of 1k things I would prefer him to get excited about doing.
"As far as watching, I [am] good with that.
"I don't think I'm alone. If we start to see a decline of popularity at the high school and then college level because kids choose other sports, it will hurt the interest in watching the NFL."
Cuban then explained why he considers off-field player behavior to be a potential threat to the financial health of the NFL.
"The NBA learned this lesson," Cuban wrote. "Fans don't like to see players acting the fool. While fans may forgive players over time, advertisers have long memories.
"It is hard to ask players to be warriors on the field and perfect citizens off. Across a population of more than 1500 players under the age of 30, you can bet that they will have continuing issues. With the unquenchable thirst the online and media world have for HEADLINE PORN, and the ever growing availability of pictures of those mistakes appearing online, it is not inconceivable that over the next ten years something could impact the perception of the game enough to impact attendance and viewership."
New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, also chairman of the NFL's broadcast committee, told reporters Monday at this week's NFL meetings in Orlando, Fla., that he had "great respect for Mr. Cuban but I'm not sure I agree with his conclusion."
"He's a very intelligent man," Kraft said. "I can only speak what I know and I've been privileged to be chair of the broadcast committee. We have pretty lucrative contracts going for almost the next decade."
Kraft pointed to the popularity of the NFL on TV.
"Our ratings have gone up dramatically -- just look at the Super Bowl. It was the most-watched program in the history of TV," Kraft said. "Thirty-four of the top 35 prime-time programs in 2013 were NFL games.
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"So if we have a problem I hope it continues for the way it was this past year."
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell also weighed in from Orlando.
"Our fans want those games," Goodell said of weeknight games, which Cuban had contended were a poor business strategy.
Cuban, in his Monday night Facebook post, clarified his stance on the NFL's expanding television package to say it's based purely on speculation that the league will overplay its hand. He called the NFL's current TV package "perfect" and added that it's "a great idea" to expand the Thursday night broadcasts.
"That said, if they continue this trend of adding games on more nights (I have been told they are looking at Saturday Nights as well) and this was the point I was making to ESPN yesterday, they risk over-saturation, a decline in interest by current, and non NFL fans feeling imposed upon because of the relative popularity of the NFL," Cuban wrote. "Some have asked, 'If you can supply programming that has such huge demand on more nights, why wouldn't you?' The answer is simple. No one wants to do the same thing every night. No matter what it is."
In the Facebook post, Cuban also discussed the value of fantasy football to the NFL -- and whether fantasy football has staying power as an entertainment option -- and the risk of TV changing as potential threats to the NFL's popularity.
"So the conclusion?" Cuban wrote.
"It's the same thing I tell my businesses and would tell every business. You shouldn't try to get every last second of a person's attention or every last penny that you can squeeze from them.
"There is a big difference between optimizing the relationship you have with your customers and maximizing short term revenue. Building customers for life is about building relationships and anticipating customer wants and needs.
"Customers/Fans/Advertisers know when they are being pushed. They know when they are being squeezed. It always ends up costing the business in the end."