NFL viewership is down 10% this season and I understand the desire to grow the brand and the sport abroad. It seems misguided to take a product that’s declining in popularity and rather than fixing the core problems to try to grow it as is. This is akin to a tech startup marketing the hell out of a product that’s unable to retain its existing customers. The proper approach is to nail the product before trying to push it into the market.
In this case it’s actually worse since the NFL is not something isolated and the experience of one fan will influence the experience of another. By having some games played internationally the NFL runs the risk of alienating some fans that have to wake up much earlier to watch the game. The London games have been airing at 9:30 AM EST, which is 1:30 PM in London and 6:30 AM in California. This requires the California fan to be up at dawn to watch the game. And on the flipside, imagine a London fan actually adopting an NFL team: an 8:30 PM EST game would start at 12:30 in London and go on for a few hours.
Given the time difference it’s tough to imagine the NFL expanding internationally in its current form. The only events with this sort of mass appeal are international competitions - the Olympics and the World Cup come to mind - and they occur every 4 years. They should instead focus on attaining the perfect experience for their existing users - that includes making the league more balanced, ditching the blackout rules and embracing full digital distribution, and actually dealing with the concussion and violence issues. Instead it feels as if the NFL is diluting themselves for a small change at some short-lived growth.