Former ESPN Boss Wants NFL to Charge You $250 to Watch the Super Bowl
The Super Bowl isn’t just the biggest thing in the NFL. It’s the biggest thing in television viewing in the United States. And as such, former ESPN president and current CEO of Meadowlark Media, John Skipper, thinks the league should make the Super Bowl pay-per-view and charge $250 per household. Sure, it may mean half the viewing audience couldn’t afford to watch, but in Skipper’s mind, it’s the “only way” for the NFL to dramatically improve on its $18 billion annual revenue.
John Skipper thinks the NFL should make the Super Bowl pay-per-view
This year, Super Bowl 57 between the Philadelphia Eagles and Kansas City Chiefs drew 182.6 million viewers, with an average of 113 million watching at any given time and 118.7 million tuned in for Rihanna’s halftime show.
These numbers made the 2023 Super Bowl the third-most-watched television show of all time and the biggest Big Game viewership since 2017, per FOX Sports.
On a recent episode of The Dan LeBatard Show, during the regular segment, “Big Suey: Sports & Business with John Skipper & David Samson,” host Chris Wittyngham asked Skipper about his idea that the NFL should turn the Super Bowl into a pay-per-view event so the NFL “can make a lot more money off of this.”
“Why wouldn’t they?” Skipper retorted. “If you just assume that half of the people watched would still figure out a way to watch if it costs $200-$250 for a household, you’re just going to have more of what David said, bigger parties. I don’t know how many households — it’s, I assume, half the households in the United States watched — if it was only a quarter of the households are willing to pay $250 to have a party at their house, it would still get you into the billions of dollars for a single game.”
The former ESPN exec justified his idea by saying, “that is the single best way I can think of for the NFL to increase their annual revenue take for their clubs, is to make the Super Bowl a Pay-Per-View event.”
When Wittyngham pressed Skipper about the NFL’s success coming from its availability on network TV, the Meadowlark Media CEO noted that the league selling the Thursday night package to Amazon is a step away from that idea and could signal the league’s willingness to do something like a PPV Super Bowl in the future.
The NFL already makes a ton of money
The NFL brought in $18 billion in revenue in 2021, according to Sportico.com, and distributed $11.1 billion in profits to the 32 NFL teams. That works out to a little over $345 million for each franchise.
That’s about a $36 million increase over 2020, when the teams got $309 million, which was “only” up $13 million from 2019 when the checks were for $296 million. When the new $100-plus billion TV deals kick in for the 2023 season, the number is expected to jump to over $400 million.
That $100 billion TV deal includes the major networks that broadcast the NFL rotating who gets the Super Bowl, the millions of viewers that come with it, and the ad revenue, where commercials cost around $7 million for a 30-second spot.
However, under John Skipper’s plan, the NFL could nearly double its revenue on a PPV Super Bowl.
Doing some rough math on Skipper’s idea, if half of the 118.7 million who watched were willing to pay $250 for the Super Bowl, that’s an additional $14.8 billion. Even if it dropped to a quarter, that’s $7.4 billion in the NFL’s coughers.
That’s a lot of money, but the question is, how badly would an unabashed cash grab like that turn off fans and hurt the league’s bottom line?