You want them to change the name? Hit the NFL in the wallet: boycott the Washington Redskins broadcasts #RedskinsPride

The management of the Washington Redskins has asked fans to tweet their #RedskinsPride to Sen. Harry Reid and tell him just what the team name means to them, as a PR campaign response to the letter from Reid and 49 other Democratic Senators who wrote letters last week to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell urging him and the league to endorse a name change by the Redskins.

What could possibly go wrong? Twitter, that’s what. The hashtag was hijacked by an overwhelming majority of protestors who told Harry Reid exactly what the team name meant to them: racism. As I said in an earlier post,

It is troubling that owner Dan Snyder, a person who made his fortune in marketing and product positioning, can’t figure out how to position his organization better.

But venting on Twitter is not going to get the team owners to change their stance on changing the name. For them to do that, it has got to cost them more to keep the name than to change it. To get that to happen, you have got to tackle them where it will hurt: ad revenue. Threaten to boycott the broadcasts of the games.

The television rights to broadcast National Football League (NFL) games are the most lucrative and expensive rights of any American sport. NFL holds broadcast contracts with four companies: CBS Corporation, NBCUniversal, 21st Century Fox and The Walt Disney Company, owner of ESPN, and also broadcasts via the NFL Network. The NFL also has broadcast contracts with Verizon, Comcast, and other cable companies and satellite providers. Looming now is AT&T’s proposed acquisition of DirecTV, the nation’s largest satellite television provider. AT&T announced on May 18th a deal to acquire DirecTV for $48.5 billion in cash and stock, but if a new deal is not reached with the NFL for DirecTV’s “NFL Sunday Ticket” package, which lapses after the 2014 season, AT&T may choose to not go through with the acquisition. Then there’s streaming to wireless and mobile devices…trying to keep track of all the revenue streams is enough to make your head spin. But the basic point is this: there’s a lot of ad revenue to be made on the broadcasting and streaming rights to professional football games.

It is estimated that as of 2014, the 32 teams of the NFL will share equally (along with the league itself) about $7 billion per year in revenue from TV rights and other media money. And that is based on advertising. Here is a very simple explanation, courtesy of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston:

Televised games bring together buyers (consumers/fans) and sellers (advertisers and their clients), and they attract fans’ attention long enough for advertisers to hit them with commercial messages.

The basics are simple. Broadcast and cable networks pay sports leagues for the national rights to televise games. Then they turn around and sell commercial time to advertisers. When more people watch the games, advertisers are willing to pay higher rates for commercial time because their ads are reaching more potential consumers.

But if the broadcast and cable networks have already paid for those broadcast rights for the season, and then fewer people watch than expected…well, it would be like paying for a stock that then goes down in value. They won’t want that to happen.

Washington Redskins football games will be televised in 2014 as follows (schedule via ESPN):

Redskins 2014 schedule

The Washington Redskins games are also broadcast on ESPN 980 radio (WTEM, WWXX and WWXT) and affiliated stations. An affiliate of ESPN, the radio station is operated by Red Zebra Broadcasting, whose primary investors are Daniel Snyder, majority owner of the Washington Redskins, and Dwight Schar, a minority owner of the team.

The best strategy is to do an end-run around Dan Snyder and target CBS, FOX, NBC, ESPN and the cable providers directly. Let the market pressures from them sack the Redskins name.

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