Yes, it’s standard by now that every news cycle arrives with proof positive that we are indeed all going to heck in a handcart. And soon. But one particular impending cataclysm jumped out at me this week as beyond the norm. In fact it was borderline meaningful.
Evidently, the television ratings have been compiled for the first three weeks of the NFL season. And they’re down—some by double-digits. Feel free to engage in mass hysteria. And all you dogs and cats out there…you may commence sleeping together.
Naturally this development was Topic #1 on every sports media outlet, with show hosts scrambling to “unpack” this startling data. But for my money, nobody summed it up better than Mark (The NFL Is Getting Hoggy) Cuban, putting things into perspective during an interview with Dan Patrick. When asked if this was the leading edge of a trend that Cuban predicted two years ago, he pointed out the obvious—that this was only a three-week sample, and one in the middle of blot-out-the-sun election coverage at that.
But it was what he went on to say that really caught my ear.
Cuban spoke at length about his 7-year-old son’s circle of friends—avid sports participants all. When not playing, however, their “screen time” is spent not on consuming sports, but rather on video games (“hours and hours” of video games). Yes, the son of an NBA team owner loves to play basketball, but couldn’t be bothered to watch it being played. How about other sports?
“I have to drag him to go to a baseball game with me,” added Cuban. And that’s the trend he points to when he maintains that all pro sports—not just the NFL—are facing a new world order in the not-so-distant future.
To me, nobody has a better vantage point on this topic than Mark Cuban. Yes, he’s deeply invested in the status quo of sports as entertainment, and lives within that rarified and detached territory. But as someone who is also neck-deep in the Shark Tank-infested waters of small-scale entrepreneurialism on a daily basis, he has to keep a finger firmly on the pulse of the ever-evolving tastes of the American consumer. The broader portion of his billion-dollar business empire depends on it.
Net/net, when Cuban opines on trends, I tend to listen. What he’s saying is that the Post-Millenial Generation clearly delineates between sports as entertainment “content” and sports as a recreational pastime—as no previous generation has. And while they’re choosing to play sports in numbers consistent with their predecessors, they’re not feeling compelled to also watch them.
If you were a billionaire investor, which part of that equation would you invest in for the long-term?