NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith has recently met with executives at several of the league's broadcast partners, including CBS, NBC and Fox, to discuss issues related to the game.
Smith is looking ahead to the next round of collective bargaining negotiations and wants the players to have a greater voice in what he describes as the league's "macroeconomic" issues, including the way it markets itself to the public.
"I think that the ratings information is significant and important. If we don't pay attention to it, I think that we do so at our own peril, from a macroeconomic standpoint," Smith said. "Certainly, I recognize that we're lucky that over 30 of the top 50 shows were NFL broadcasts. But I think that you ignore at your own peril not so much just the decline in football, but the overall decline in ratings for most television shows and particularly sports broadcasts."
Smith pointed to the success the NBA is enjoying and a desire to find out more about what's behind it.
"I think that it's important to take a look at what's going on in basketball, because for the most part, I think they are the only sport that more and more people are watching," Smith said. "And my hat's off to what they do and how they do it in the NBA. I think that you could make the argument that a lot of their programming is fresher, hipper. They do, I think, a great job of marketing their individual players, sometimes at a time when the [NFL] looks for ways to take their star players off the field. I would be interested in better understanding the relationship between the broadcast partners and the NBA, what that relationship is like, how they do their TV deals, their rights deals.
"But I think that, given the year-over-year ratings issue in football, it begs the question, 'Should we be doing something different?' And that might mean the restructuring of the season in a way to make it more fan-friendly."