How the NFL’s most up-to-date controversy is alienating a few of its broadcast companions


Commissioner Roger Goodell and the NFL desperately need the league’s partnership with Amazon — which started earlier than final season — to be a rousing success. Dave Richard/AP Photograph

Within the years since Roger Goodell turned NFL commissioner in August 2006, the next step by step emerged as a dependable rule of thumb:

If the league is totally decided to do one thing — and that vary can go from making a generic Tremendous Bowl emblem to angling its means into one of the best graces of a specific broadcast companion to, oh, permitting public opinion to find out the implications for guidelines misdemeanors — it’s greatest to be very skeptical of its motives.

Happily, the motivations are apparent with the newest controversy. The NFL desperately desires its partnership with Amazon — which started earlier than final season, when the streaming service and the league agreed on a $13 billion deal to stream Thursday night time video games by the 2033 season — to be a rousing and much more profitable success, even when it alienates extra established league broadcast companions within the current.

Nielsen Media, which is lengthy trusted with the viewership knowledge it offers due to its independence, not too long ago introduced that it plans to incorporate first-party knowledge in its viewers measurements for streaming companies, most notably Amazon. First-party knowledge is data that the companies have collected themselves from their viewers.

The NFL is on board with this resolution, and for apparent causes. It’s going to permit for Amazon’s “Thursday Evening Soccer” to report larger scores and viewership numbers, as a result of its knowledge differs from what Nielsen gathers, thus permitting for larger promoting charges.

Final yr, Nielsen reported that “Thursday Evening Soccer” averaged 9.58 million viewers on Amazon Prime. Amazon reported that its personal knowledge decided that viewership was roughly 18 % larger, with the quantity at 11.3 million viewers after its first-party knowledge was included for the 15-game slate.

Throughout the 2022 season, Amazon supplied occasional rebuttals to studies of Nielsen scores on particular person “Thursday Evening Soccer” broadcasts, citing its personal first-party knowledge.

Now the NFL is publicly in Amazon’s nook, whereas Nielsen is no less than giving the impression of sacrificing its nonpartisan picture to appease the league and a sure essential streaming companion. Executives at different networks that broadcast NFL video games are someplace between pissed off and livid, arguing that on the very least there’s now a notion that the taking part in subject is uneven.

“Nielsen is about to sacrifice its most dear attribute — impartiality — to learn one consumer, one program, and one content material provider,” posted Michael Mulvihill, president of insights and analytics at longtime NFL broadcast companion Fox Sports activities, on Aug. 28. “Reckless, wrongheaded, and a slap within the face to the biggest Nielsen shoppers and NFL companions.”

The identical day, Flora Kelly, vp of ESPN Analysis, supplied one thing of a heads-up for NFL followers who take an curiosity within the viewership numbers. “This Amazon-only Nielsen adjustment creates an apples-to-oranges comparability between them and different NFL media rights companions for this season,” she posted. “This is essential context for everybody to recollect as we head into the NFL season.”

Throughout a convention name on Aug. 29, CBS Sports activities chairman Sean McManus supplied related sentiments. “A good and correct viewers measurement throughout all platforms, as you already know, is totally important to our trade,” McManus mentioned. “Something that isn’t neutral and unbiased is unacceptable to us. I have to say that we expect it’s extraordinarily odd and unlucky that totally different guidelines are out of the blue making use of to at least one platform.”

The advocacy group Video Promoting Bureau blasted Nielsen in an announcement, accusing it of pandering to Amazon by agreeing to incorporate first-party knowledge. Nielsen pushed again, saying in an announcement that “we wholeheartedly object to these accusations.”

For now, the Amazon/Nielsen plan awaits approval from the Media Scores Council, a regulatory physique that accredits media knowledge measurement firms, however it actually looks as if it’s going to undergo. If the opposite league broadcast companions need somebody responsible, it’s by no means a foul concept to imagine Goodell is behind it and work from there.

Nix has left ESPN

Wendi Nix introduced this previous week that she has left ESPN. “Precisely 17 years in the past, I walked into ESPN wide-eyed and excited,” she wrote in a publish on Instagram. “This week, I stroll out the identical means. Grateful, however equally excited in regards to the subsequent chapter.” Nix was not laid off, however her contract was not renewed. Earlier than becoming a member of ESPN, Nix labored at Ch. 7, NESN, and Fox Sports activities New England (earlier than it turned NBC Sports activities Boston) . . . We give NESN a variety of grief round right here, however it ought to be famous that Tom Caron was one of many voices that, as Mookie Betts reclaimed Fenway Park as his personal territory in the course of the Dodgers’ sequence win final weekend, hit the Purple Sox with blunt criticism for buying and selling Betts greater than three years in the past. “How did you let this man get away?” Caron mentioned after Sunday’s recreation. “He ought to have been the cornerstone of the franchise.” Perhaps that’s not precisely as daring as, oh, demanding that Chaim Bloom be traded again to the Rays for 3 scuffed baseballs, however it’s the reality, and Caron didn’t hesitate to ship it.