The NFL’s Social Media Policy Won’t Fix Their Ratings Problem

The NFL recently decided to ban teams from posting gifs and videos from games on their social media accounts. Under the new policy, a team can’t post footage before or during games and may only retweet or share media that has already been posted on social by the NFL. This new move has prompted some teams to poke fun at the league by using creative workarounds to distribute game news to their fans and followers. It’s also made some people wonder if the NFL instituted the move to help increase viewership after a downward trend. The NFL seems to think that by restricting access to video on social, TV viewership will increase and all their problems will be solved. What the NFL doesn’t grasp is that restricting access to video on social media is counterintuitive to growing the NFL as a global game.

Enter the NBA.

The National Basketball Association is one of the fastest growing leagues in the world thanks to a wealth of international players, continued outreach efforts in Asia and Africa and, of course, a strong social media presence. Unlike the NFL, the NBA arms its teams with a cache of up-to-the-second footage from league games that’s available to use on social media at any time during games. This fluidity has made the NBA increasingly accessible to fans around the world. Rather than the curated content the NFL pushes out, NBA teams can get creative on social, which strengthens the connection between fans and the league.

Though social media isn’t fully responsible, the NBA is experiencing higher TV ratings than ever before, with this year’s NBA Finals being the most watched since 1998 (when Michael Jordan and the Bulls beat the Utah Jazz). Even regular season games experienced higher ratings on all networks. Sunday day games are played at the perfect time of day to attract fans from across the globe. Meanwhile, overall ratings for the NFL are down 15 percent. Furthermore, American audiences don’t want to wake up at 6am to watch a game in London between two below-.500 teams. Until the NFL accepts that younger fans are glued to their devices and not their TVs, ratings will continue to slump. Instead of declaring sole ownership over all content, the NFL would greatly benefit from an NBA approach to social media. Let teams show their fans what they want to see, when they want to see it.

Another piece of advice: only put the best teams on national TV. Nobody wants to watch Titans vs Jaguars on a Thursday night… Nobody.

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