Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Add the United Footbal League to the growing list of people who just wanna get spanked. I seriously do not get the business model that says the NFL just hasn’t had any real competition and oh, by the way, let’s take them on without bringing anything new to the table.
By the way, you knew there was now a UFL, right? It’s okay, up until four days ago neither did I, and by the end of the season, neither will the rest of country.
I’m trying to think of another industry besides pro sports that doesn’t seem to tolerate direct competition. Not entertainment. Not automotive. Other consumer goods? Coke and Pepsi have each other and the rest of the sodas out there. Tech? Google dominates the market but Bing and Ask get to hang around. Blackberry and the iPhone are playing nice, for now.
Maybe tolerate is a bad word, maybe it’s more like the NFL hasn’t had any competition able to hold its own for any length of time.
The Arena Football League? Which month is it because that thing keeps folding like a bad poker hand. USFL, XFL, (insert)FL? No way. The NFL has that coveted first mover thing. People are used to their seasons and for five months out of the year, the NFL has them locked up.
League history aside, this is about colorful web 2.0 graphics hoping to win some of that pro football market share. We might as well praise this valiant attempt before we end up burying it in four months.
The good: Things I think they did right.
1) Names. One of the must-haves with any new league no matter what the sport is that it has to have name talent who people know. Either on the field, the sidelines or in front office. They have former NFL coaches Dennis Green, Jim Fassel, Ted Cottrell and Jim Haslett, and that’s a good start.
2) It’s got to look like a real league. No Oliver Stone Any Given Sunday XFL reject throwback uniforms from hell. The price of entry for any sport these days is that it have a bold logo, clean colors and website, a Twitter account for the league as well as coaches, and fan-friendly events!
3) Alternative schedules and stadiums. This could be a negative, but the UFL splits their games up for the week and in two different start times, 7:00 or 9:00 pm EST. I like that they bring the games to different stadiums for fans though, allowing different cities to see games.
I also don’t mind a split alternate schedule, but the NFL can do Thursday games because it has an established schedule already and the fans like the change. The UFL doesn’t have that luxury yet, and this looks more like it took whatever it could.
The bad: Which is unfortunately for them a longer list.
1) Timing. The league’s eight game season takes place right in the heart of the NFL’s season. The NFL has a lock not just on Sundays, but Monday and now Thursday nights.
2) Flooded market. Three of the four teams are in already football-saturated markets. (CA, NY and FL.) I’d say props to them for beating the NFL with a Vegas team, but I’m not sure this is an advantage for a family sport. (Least one that’s perceived to be family, even though it’s not.)
3) Hand me down coaches? That’s the fan perception as they appear to be coaches who had issues winning in the NFL.
4) Talent. Forget only having four teams. All pro leagues have the best talent. There’s not “two” leagues with great talent, just one. Eventually, the USFL saw the likes of Jim Kelly and Herschel Walker be absorbed into the NFL.
5) No real TV deal. Versus? HDNET? Unless you have one of the major networks, CBS, NBC, ABC, FOX or ESPN, forget it.
6) Fans love football. NFL football. It’s funny how competing leagues always think fans will watch whatever’s put in front of them. NFL highlights, yes. ESPN Classic NFL games, yes. NFL Network replays. Yes. Everything else. No.
I mentioned “being there” first, but the NFL has its act down. They are part of not just a collective sports mindset in this country, but a strong consumer culture. Anything to do with NFL football, they’re all over it: Madden 2010, official NFL merch, plasma TV and NFL Sunday Ticket.
I’m not saying you have to have to do all of those things to be successful, but when you’re taking on the NFL, you had better nail the ones you go for. (The XFL’s TV deal with NBC couldn’t save it.)
Here, the UFL appears to not only have disregarded a lot of that, but haven’t really brought anything new to the game. Certainly not the way Arena brought speed to it or the XFL brought its little eccentricities like the SkyCam or pre-game football dash as, etc.)
Good luck, but to channel Green’s famous rant, sorry man, but the UFL is going to find out that the NFL is exactly who they thought they were.
Posted 12:46 PM