When I was a young boy, my mother would let me play at a friend’s house. We’d play with her brother’s Matchbox cars, or I’d cart my Lincoln Logs and we’d build a fort. We would be allowed to play uninterrupted for hours as long as we didn’t bother her mother in the middle of her favorite soap opera.
Do you remember Soap Operas? In the 70s and 80s, we all had that family member or friend who watched or recorded their favorite soap opera each day. You didn’t dare bug them during that hour or so of television bliss.
Soap Operas have fallen out of favor because of poor ratings and the plethora of choices that now exist, but they once ruled the television world, filling the network’s daytime schedules. Today only four remain: The Bold and the Beautiful, Days of Our Lives, General Hospital, and The Young and the Restless and their ratings are a fraction of what they used to be.
Stealing what works
The whole idea of the soaps was to introduce a few likeable characters, with murky backgrounds, throw in a sultry plot line, and let the story slowly play out, all the while whetting the viewers’ appetite and keeping them coming back for more. Soap Operas may be on their last legs, but their business model has been stolen by a modern-day successor, the National Football League.
Whether it’s the games on television, fantasy leagues, or social media discussing who’s injured or whether Tom Brady will be coming back for another year, the NFL rules the airwaves and has taken over where Soap Opera left off.
Striking it rich
Here’s what I mean: In 1960, two businessmen bought the rights to the Dallas Cowboys franchise for $600,000. Today, Forbes ranked the Dallas Cowboys as the most valuable NFL franchise, with annual revenue totaling more than $1.1 billion. In total, the NFL generated revenue of more than $17.19 billion last year.
There are many reasons behind the NFL’s huge market share. One of the biggest reasons has been the way the league gives fans what they want. They are masters in storytelling.
Tell me a story
In Week One alone, the storylines were overflowing:
—The classic David over Goliath. Since Bill Belichick became the New England Patriots head coach in 2000, New England is 26-19 against the Miami Dolphins. During a three-year stretch ending in 2012, the Patriots dominated, going 6-0, sweeping the Dolphins both home and away. But “The times they are a-changin.” At least it looks that way with the Dolphins winning handily, 20-7.
—The rebirth. Quarterback Tom Brady in his 22nd year in the league helped lead the Tampa Bay Buccaneer to a win on the road against the Dallas Cowboys. Brady seems to show up in the news every other week with rumors swirling that he’ll finally retire after the year.
Week Two finishes up Monday night and the plotlines have continued to flourish:
–Rags to riches. The Jacksonville Jaguars have won just four games the past two years. They lost in Week One in a close game to the Washington Commanders, but beat the Indianapolis Colts easily by a score or 24-0 in Week Two. Could this be the step forward that Jaguar fans have been waiting?
—Riches to rags. The Cincinnati Bengals, who were 13-8 in the regular season last season and came close to winning the Super Bowl, losing to the Los Angelas Rams, 23-20, have started this year off 0-2 with tough losses to the Pittsburgh Steelers and Dallas Cowboys.
Like sands through the hourglass
Soap Operas and the NFL have as much in common as Kim Kardashian and the neighbor I see walking her kids to school every day, but they have amazing similarities. They both rely on storytelling and keeping the viewer coming back for more. The producers who once ran the leading soap operas would have killed for the NFL’s plot lines.
Of the top 10 most-watched shows last week, nine were NFL games or NFL pregame or postgame shows, according to Nielsen. With 21 more weeks to go in the season, the ratings will only get bigger.
Are you ready for some football? Or are you over it? How much bigger will the NFL get? Will the NFL’s bubble ever burst?