In the worlds of both sports and television, the NFL is a behemoth. But is there something uniquely and grossly profitable about pro football that it can continue to grow indefinitely, or has it hit its ceiling? Mavericks owner Mark Cuban thinks the end is nigh.
Speaking to reporters ahead of last night's Mavs game, Cuban predicted the bursting of the NFL bubble within the next decade, hastened by a recent cash grab that may overexpose the product.
"I think the NFL is 10 years away from an implosion," Cuban said. "When pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered. And they're getting hoggy. When you try to take it too far, people turn the other way. I'm just telling you, when you got a good thing and you get greedy, it always, always, always, always, always turns against you."
Cuban is referring specifically to the NFL's new TV deal with CBS, which will bring in hundreds of millions a year for the right to broadcast half the league's Thursday games, and see the return of at least two Saturday games a year. Cuban believes the league is overextending itself, and overestimating the public's appetite for week-round football.
"They're trying to take over every night of TV," Cuban said. "Initially, it'll be, 'Yeah, they're the biggest-rating thing that there is.' OK, Thursday, that's great, regardless of whether it impacts [the NBA] during that period when we cross over. Then if it gets Saturday, now you're impacting colleges. Now it's on four days a week... It's all football. At some point, the people get sick of it."
It's hard to imagine fans turning away from football, though Thursday ratings and fan interest do show hints of diminishing returns. (And, of course, baseball once reigned as unchallenged king of American sports. Nothing lasts forever.) The NFL, with every conceivable revenue stream turned on full blast, is making money hand over fist. But what happens when it runs out of spigots?