The League

Sean McCann
Beat Writer

Sean McCann

Former Philadelphia Eagles beat writer for Gannett

Fantasy and TV Are Key

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The NFL has a popular product, an ironclad business model, a track record of success, and a marketing fleet ready to carpet bomb the battlefield. But so did Nazi Germany, and London proved an heroically elusive quarry.

Times have changed, however. The Big Smoke can be had, but if American football is to succeed in London, the NFL has to export its entire experience to the UK, not just a single franchise.

That means several games going on simultaneously, tailgating for hours, watching fantasy teams sink or swim on the scoreboard, learning to hate the other cities in the division. And most of all, TV.

Television is the key.

From infancy, Americans of all walks of life have been conditioned to sit down in front of the TV on autumn Sunday afternoons. This tradition is the foundation of the league's greatness, and though it's been diluted by games on Monday night, Sunday night and -- late in the season -- Thursday night, Sunday afternoons remain a marketing monopoly.

Most of those who don't grow up in football-watching households do not pick up the habit later in life, but fortunately for the NFL, the league's founders located a dead spot in the nation's schedule, right after church and before the 60 Minutes clock ticks out the waning moments of the weekend. I can still remember Monsignor Gallagher rushing through his homily to make sure he got back to the rectory in time for the Eagles pregame show, and the congregation loving him for it.

For the Brits, that spot cannot be a direct hit. At 1 p.m. Greenwich Mean Time, it's 5 a.m. in San Diego, San Francisco, Oakland and Seattle. Owners and advertisers in those cities would never stand for a plan that asks fans to wake up before the sun just to watch their team on TV, cranky, hungry and sober.

Most of any London-based team's games will have to be played at 6 p.m. local time on Sundays. So young fans will need to do their homework before they watch, and adults who need to work on Monday will need to stop drinking at halftime.

That's a bummer for all ages, but it's not an insurmountable obstacle.

I have no idea what's on TV in the UK on Sunday nights, but if the NFL can replace it with football and get it to British viewers for free, that's a start.

In addition, the league should soften the ground by promoting the fantasy game a season or two in advance, and move Dallas out of the NFC East in favor of London.
Even if the NFL does everything right, it still might fail in the United Kingdom. But the potential payoff is so huge, the gamble might be worth the risk.

By Sean McCann  |  October 23, 2009; 10:59 AM ET  | Category:  New England Patriots , Tampa Bay Buccaneers Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: Step 1: Channel MNF | Next: Need for Greed

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