NFL Turns Its 6-Month Season Into a 12-Month Business
For a moment, put aside all the debate about concussions and the long-term viability of football.
In 2013, the National Football League is the most popular professional league in America—and the most profitable. Perhaps, most amazing is that the NFL has made a six-month season into a 12-month business.
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The NFL draft is a key part of the strategy as it serves to bridge the gap between one season and the next. It generates a huge amount of media and fan attention, while also becoming a revenue generator.
"It's bigger and bigger every year," said Commissioner Roger Goodell.
To his point, in 2012, the draft drew in 25.3 million viewers on two different cable networks. That was an 18 percent increase over the previous year.
This year, according to Commissioner Goodell, the league expects that upward of 50 million people will tune in to watch during the three-day process where 32 teams re-stock their rosters by choosing the best of the best from the college game.
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Because of that popularity, the best of the best from the marketing world want to be a part of it.
"I think we are up by two or three more sponsors from last year," said Mark Waller, the NFL's Chief Marketing Officer.
"It's a big business from a sponsorship standpoint," Waller said. "It generates good revenue, but we also invest a lot in the execution of it."
The execution is pitch perfect.
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Radio City Music Hall in New York City. A red carpet. Cameras everywhere. Thousands of fans in the country's busiest city.
And once the draft news fades, the next drama emerges: signing the players and filling out rosters.
After a month or so of that, workouts begin. Who shows up? Who doesn't? Who gets hurt? ...more fodder for fans and for the media.
Before a fan can chant J-E-T-S, JETS JETS JETS, it's time for preseason games.
"We play games for maybe a six-month period," said Goodell. "But the reality is more and more fans want to engage in seeing how these players are drafted, how they train.
"What we have seen is that fans don't want a disconnect with football once the season is over. They want more."
And the $9 billion NFL juggernaut is more than happy to provide it.
—By CNBC's Brian Shactman; Follow him on Twitter: @bshactman
Jess Golden contributed to this report.