There is a theory out there that states that the American people want more football. A number of leagues over the years have put this theory to the test only to see those leagues go under within a few years. The latest to attempt to prove the theory is the Alliance of American Football, the brainchild of Charlie Ebersol, the son of Dick Ebersol, as well as Bill Polian.
The AAF kicked off its inaugural weeks of games last weekend, with the first of the games being broadcast on CBS. The CBS game slot averaged a pretty healthy 3.25 million viewers, which was a greater ratings share than that of the NBA game that was airing on network television at the same time.
“We feel really good about them and that our theory that Americans want more football tends to be true”, Ebersol told the Associated Press. “However, we still have to remain slow and steady in building things. We are going to be facing stiff competition as soon as next month”, he noted, referring to the upcoming NCAA basketball tournament known as ‘March Madness’.
The article notes that the ratings of that initial CBS game were comparable to, and in fact slightly favorable over, the preseason games that the network aired during the previous NFL season. Of course preseason games are a different animal, and this was the premiere of a league.
It’s also important to note that the remainder of the AAF’s regular season will air off of network television, largely on the NFL Network, as well as on TNT, and some games will be streaming live over the internet via B/R Live. The ratings for the NFL Network games, unsurprisingly, were significantly lower.
Ebersol is doing his best to try to get this league going in what he sees as the right way, going from the ground up, yet with a headstart due to the significant expertise of those involved. Part of the strategy is including their broadcast providers more as partners than as purchasers.
“What we are looking to do is create a structure that is equitable for the network” he said. “People paying for media rights are losing money. In the modern tech world, you want to get people engaged in the product and there is an enterprise value. CBS has been buying into technology companies and Turner bought Bleacher Report a couple years ago”.
Still, even under ideal circumstances, the on-field product will ultimately decide rise and fall of the league. If they can put on good games and build “some emotional link”, as he put it, with players and teams and storylines, then the AAF has a legitimate shot of catching on.
If not, they will simply join so many other leagues as the flash-in-the-pan, pie-in-the-sky story of an also-ran, which as you can see involves a lot of hyphenating.