retail news in context, analysis with attitude


This commentary is available as both text and video; enjoy both or either ... they are similar, but not exactly the same. To see past FaceTime commentaries, go to the MNB Channel on YouTube.

Hi, I'm Kevin Coupe and this is FaceTime with the Content Guy.

We seem to be on a bit of a sports tear here on MNB. There has been lots of baseball coverage and metaphors, and on Tuesday, Michael Sansolo sketched out business lessons that retailers and suppliers can learn from NBC's coverage of the Summer Olympics. At the risk of seeming like ESPN Jr., I'm going to continue down this road...

The Washington Post had a story the other day about how the National Football League, long considered to be "a last line of defense against the rapid growth of 'cord-cutting' and on-demand viewing upending the industry." For the first time, NFL ratings are on the decline - down 10 percent for the first five weeks of the current season, compared to the same period a year ago.

Now, there are a lot of reasons being cited for the decline. There's all the attention being paid to the election, which is sort of funny because at one point Donald Trump was complaining about when the debates against Hillary Clinton were scheduled because of concerns that folks would rather watch football. And, there is the retirement of Peyton Manning and the suspension of Tom Brady, which took away two of the game's biggest draws.

But there are a few other things going on that are instructive to any business. First, there is so much competition for the consumer's time and entertainment dollar, it finally may be having an impact. There just are other things to do. And, there is the cord-cutting that allow people to access game action without actually having to turn on the networks that paid so much money for the rights to show the games.

I also think there may be one other thing at play. I've noticed lately that when I'm watching football on television and there is a particularly tough hit, I find myself wondering about the long-term consequences on the player. Ten or 15 or 20 years from now, I wonder, will that player find himself in the company of those who have suffered and continue to suffer the long-term effects of concussions received during their careers. And I also wonder if that's having an impact on ratings.

I'm no expert on sports broadcasting, so I don't have all the answers. But I do think it is possible to learn some valuable and broader lessons from what's happening to the NFL.

In many ways, I think, the powers that be in the network executive suites and the NFL probably figured that football would be the gift that would keep on giving, the golden goose that would never die. And that probably was a mistake. Every goose eventually dies, sometimes of natural causes and sometimes because it gets shot by a hunter.

In every business, from professional football or food retailing, it is the height of hubris to think that things never will change, that the customers and the revenue always will be there. Stuff happens. Competition, some of it unorthodox, often from unexpected directions. Trends take people in a different direction, and new realities can change the way people view a business.

It is arrogance to think otherwise. It is arrogance to think you can just keep raising prices and licensing fees and broadcasting costs and expect that nothing ever will change.

That's the lesson from the NFL season so far. Owners everywhere, of every business, have to have a game plan that is nimble enough to deal with every challenge, not just the ones you see coming.

That's what's on my mind, and as always, I want to hear what is on your mind.

KC's View: