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NFL bullish on playing regular-season games in Germany

5/31/2021 6:12:14 PM
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A few years ago, the league was bullish on putting a team or teams in London or Europe. That sentiment has cooled now; too many logistical problems that ownership feels are off-putting and potentially competitively unfair. Instead, the league wants to conquer non-U.S. markets in two ways—giving each team the chance to be the “home team” for a foreign market. The Steelers and the Rooney family as the NFL team in marketing and business ventures, say, in Dublin. Jacksonville and London, say. And expanding the schedule overseas by mandating every team play at least one game every eight years outside the United States.

Peter King of NBC Sports asked Chris Halpin(NFL Chief Strategy and Growth Officer) on Friday what an ideal NFL schedule might look like in five years, in the 2026 season. “Maybe four games in London—two from the inventory of games teams voted on this year, maybe two with teams [such as Jacksonville] volunteering for games there. And maybe one in Germany and one in Mexico,” Halpin said. So six in all. That’s one more than the most the NFL has played outside the country; in 2017 and 2019, the league had four games in London and one in Mexico City. The fast-riser in international circles: Germany. The NFL is bullish on playing one game a season, starting either in 2022 or 2023, in Germany. The likely first venue would be nearly NFL-ready Allianz Stadium in Munich, home grounds for Bayern Munich. Frankfurt, Berlin and Cologne/Dusseldorf could also host.

This year, the NFL had 2.2 million people in Germany watching as an average-minute audience (that’s the way Nielsen rates NFL games here) at least part of the Super Bowl—and the game was on there in the early hours of Monday. Plus, subscriptions to the NFL’s big pay-TV model, NFL GamePass, were up 30 percent worldwide last year. That is a huge revenue stream.

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