CNBC Exclusive Interview: NFL CFO Anthony Noto

Anthony Noto
Anthony Noto

Anthony Noto was the top media and entertainment analyst at Goldman Sachs before becoming the NFL’s CFO in Jan. 2008. Noto joined me this morning, in his first television appearance since taking the job, to talk about the state of the league as the season starts tonight in Pittsburgh.

On growth of the game: “We’re continuing to see strong year over year growth in all key fan engagement methods building on the strong success of the Super Bowl in 2008, which had a record audience of 152 million viewers. We’re continuing to see that growth strongly in audience ratings as it relates to preseason games that are up over 20 percent. The NFL Network’s ratings on a year-to-date basis are also up in the double-digit range.”

On revenues: “On the economic front, clearly the environment has hurt discretionary spending and that has had a negative impact on ticket sales as well as sponsorship and advertising. So our forecast for revenue is lower than we thought a year ago, which still should grow about mid single digits year-over-year.

On the blackout rule being enforced: “The blackout policy is really not driven by finance. It’s driven by the environment of the stadium experience for the fan, it's about improving the fan experience. By having the blackout policy, it encourages fans to come to the stadium to enjoy the game in a live environment. And if we can do that, we can create a great environment for our fans. One thing we’ll be doing for our fans in those markets that have a blackout situation, which we’re working very hard to eliminate, is to provide at midnight that night on Eastern Standard Time the ability to see that game that was blacked out online for free through a service that we’re launching called Rewind. So we still want to give the fans the access to the product that they’re not able to come to the stadium…It would be available for 72 hours. It would be taken off online during the Monday Night Football window and then put back online for free just in that geographic area where it was blacked out.

On why the current CBA doesn’t work for the future: “It’s in the best interest for everyone to find an agreement that works for the players and works for the owners and works for the fans. We’ll work very hard to try to find that right dynamic that works for everyone. The current deal doesn’t really recognize our cost. And that takes away some of the resources to invest in the game. The league has been incredibly successful by reinvesting the business to drive continued growth. We want to have a pro-growth strategy and relationship where the owners have the resource and have the incentive to invest.

On difference between working at the NFL and Goldman Sachs: “That would be comparing apples to oranges. One has an incredible passion for the game and the other has an incredible passion for making money.”