By Joshua Bernthal
Guest Contributor, Sports+Fitness Network
The media and sport industries influence each other in the same way symbiotic biological species interact. In biology, these relationships are known as mutualism, commensalism, and parasitism. Only the mutualistic interaction between sport and media will be discussed; however, the other forms of relationships are clearly applicable through analysis. Mutualism is a relationship in which both species benefit from the interaction. In some forms of mutualism, a species survival is bound to the other organism. This form of mutualism is known as an obligate relationship (Biology Online, 2008). The evolutionary changes in media and sport have influenced each other to the point in which their dependence is locked. The argument can be made that the relationship between media and sport has evolved into an obligate mutualistic relationship, where neither sport nor the media could maintain their current form without each other. The purpose of this discussion is to show how the relationships between media, specifically broadcast companies, and the sport of football, or the National Football League [NFL], have influenced each other through a mutualistic relationship. It is also the purpose of this discussion, to pose the argument that neither sport nor media could maintain their current forms without the other.
It is undeniable that football, and the media mutually benefit each other. Football is the most popular spectator sport in the United States (Woods, 2011, p. 30). The very nature of a spectator sport relies on an audience to flourish. Consumer-resource ecology shows the interdependence between consumers and food. Without adequate food, a species will diminish. Without media, football would diminish. Woods (2011) states, “professional spectator sports depend on media for survival” (p. 76); however, this statement is also true for the media. Football provides media with an ever-expanding provision of clientele, while the media companies continue to expand the net in which to captivate larger audiences. In 2015 the NFL is estimated to have earned $12 billion which was a 14.3% increase from the previous year (Wattles, 2015). Of those earnings the broadcast networks contributed over $3 billion (Rocco, 2015). The NFL can demand this price due to the fact that it maintains the sole function of spectator allure. With this increased revenue the NFL has been able to grow the league-wide salary cap in 2016 to over $1.5 million (“2016 Adjusted Team Salary Caps”, 2016). Increased salary allows the football teams to escalate their marketability through proliferation of talent. AT&T recently signed an eight-year contract with the NFL for the DirecTV NFL Sunday Ticket broadcast rights at a cost of $1.5 billion per year (Stelter & Pallotta, 2014). This may seem parasitic on the NFL’s part; however, with advertising costs of $4.5 million for 30 second ads during the last Super Bowl (Miceli, 2016), AT&T could recoup that price in only 2.78 hours of aired advertisements. With spectator consumption rates increasing, broadcast companies are continuously growing more possibilities for advertising. What the TV companies fail to earn in advertising, are applied to increased subscription costs. AT&T is increasing the 2016 Sunday Ticket cost by 2.4% (Lucia, 2016). As the NFL grows, so does the broadcast industry; the relationship between the two grows more dependent. The media and the sport industries depend on each other for continued existence. The two symbionts support each other, and mutually grow off the sustenance of their host – the spectators.
Biology Online. (2008). Mutualism. Retrieved on April 13, 2016 from http://www.biology-online.org/dictionary/Mutualism
2016 Adjusted Team Salary Caps. (2016). Retrieved April 13, 2016, from https://www.nflpa.com/news/all-news/2016-adjusted-team-salary-caps
Lucia, J. (2016). NFL Sunday Ticket increasing in price by 2% in 2016. Retrieved April 13, 2016 from http://awfulannouncing.com/2016/nfl-sunday-ticket-increasing-in-price-by-2-in-2016.html
Miceli, M. (2016). Super bowl ads cost more than ever. Retrieved April 13, 2016 from http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2016-02-04/super-bowl-ads-cost-more-than-ever
Stelter, B., & Pallotta, F. (2014). DirecTV, NFL renew Sunday Ticket deal. Retrieved April 13, 2016, from http://money.cnn.com/2014/10/01/media/directv/?iid=EL
Weeltes, J. (2015). NFL sees big jump in revenue. Retrieved from http://money.cnn.com/2015/07/20/news/green-bay-packers-revenue
Woods, R. (2011). Social Issues in Sport. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics