This Sunday, the NFL plays its fourth and final London game of the season with the 0-6 Browns taking on the Minnesota Vikings. According to the league, an NFL franchise making London its permanent home sometime within the next five years is very much a reality.
NFL executive vice-president Mark Waller is the one tasked with developing the city’s fan base.
“That sort of timing would align with the next collective bargaining agreement so if we were ever to put a team here that would need to be agreed with the Union,” Waller told Sky Sports News. “It also coincides with the renegotiation of our broadcast agreements and obviously if we were to have a team here we’d have a very different broadcast agreement in the UK, and so the timing feels right from a planning perspective. The fan growth feels definitely right and all of the indicators are very positive for us.”
The NFL’s CBA is set to expire following the 2021 season. The league’s broadcasting rights contract for the NFL in London is in the midst of a one year extension with BBC and a five year deal with Sky Sports expiring in 2019. Sky Sports and the NFL were working on an extension through 2024 at the end of this past summer.
There are certainly many hurdles for a permanent team in London such as travel and attracting players to the market, but a profitable TV contract and generating ratings will be crucial.
The NFL has yet to release their Yahoo streaming numbers from the September 24thLondon game between the Jaguars and Ravens. 2015 was the last time the league had a game only available via Yahoo which garnered 15.2 million views.
According to Pro Football Talk, “Given that it’s usually a fairly easy endeavor to determine the specific number of people who click links and spend time at the place where the link goes (most websites can and do track their traffic in real time), it’s becoming more and more clear that we don’t know the specific number of people who watched the Ravens-Jaguars game because the NFL doesn’t want us to know. And if the NFL doesn’t want us to know, it’s fair to conclude that the NFL doesn’t want us to know because the numbers weren’t good.”
Although every game in London has sold out, with ticket costs averaging 50% more than in the United States, the league generally loses money on the production. If a permanent team were in place, the league would need to negotiate a more lucrative TV contract.