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The NFL
Peter King
October 25, 1999
Out of Site Jerry Jones looks at the Internet and sees more profits for his Cowboys
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October 25, 1999

The Nfl

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EASY STREET

TEAM

OPP. W-L

OPP. sPCT.

1. Jaguars

18-39

.316

2. Rams

24-36

.400

3. 49ers

23-32

.418

HARD TIMES

TEAM

OPP. W-L

OPP. PCT.

1. Eagles

33-18

.647

2. Broncos

34-20

.630

3. Bears

31-20

.608

Out of Site
Jerry Jones looks at the Internet and sees more profits for his Cowboys

En Route to what was for them a so-so year on the field in 1998, the Cowboys may have set a record for single-season profits by an American sports franchise. A source close to the club's ownership told SI last week that the Cowboys netted $57 million on revenue approaching $180 million.

So much for the last vestiges of the Arkansas hillbilly image Jones brought with him when he bought the Cowboys in 1989. Even fellow owners who still dislike him have to admit that Jones has raised the value of their franchises with his aggressive marketing tactics. One longtime executive with another NFL club who has quietly talked about the evils of Jones's rebellion against the NFL's revenue-sharing plan nevertheless calls Jones a genius for his marketing acumen.

There are 12 Cowboys merchandise shops in the Dallas area. The Dallas Cowboys Golf Course, on the site of a major conference center near the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, is in the planning stages. The team will soon become a player in auto racing, sponsoring a total of five cars on the stock car, Indy and drag racing circuits. To boost the team's burgeoning fan base in Mexico, Jones is about to close a deal to move his Texas training camp just north of the Mexican border, in McAllen.

Looking long term, the Dallas owner is fascinated with the idea of turning his Texas Stadium site into a theme park of sorts, with a Cowboys Hall of Fame, an interactive play area and rides on the grounds. "Disney replicates the Alamo on a back lot of a movie studio," Jones said last week. "We don't have to replicate the Alamo. We are the Alamo. We're authentic, and we're where the battles are being fought. I want to bring our fans more of what our product is all about."

As the next century dawns, the best way to do that might be through the Internet Thirty-eight years ago NFL owners agreed to pool all network TV money and split it equally among the teams. This form of socialism helped make the league a capitalist triumph, rich and powerful. (The league is in the middle of an eight-year TV contract that pays each of its 31 teams an average of about $70 million annually.) Now, in addition to the NFL's official Web site, every team has its own site. Down the road the league sees a tremendous opportunity to generate revenue that would most likely come in the form of subscriber fees and advertising dollars. "The Internet will be as critical to the future of the NFL as television was in the 1960s," commissioner Paul Tagliabue wrote in an NFL newsletter last month.

Jones, of course, would prefer that each franchise fight for—and keep—its Internet dollars. "Each team should have the incentive to make the most it can out of the Internet," he says. Jones follows pay sites like jennicam.com, in which a twentysomething woman in Washington, D.C., has put cameras all over her apartment, including one focused on her ferret. She gets up to 5 million hits a day while charging $15 a year for unlimited viewing.

Jones sees a day not far off when he has cameras in his office, in the coaches' offices, in the locker room, in meeting rooms, in the cheerleaders' studios (and maybe inside a cheerleader's house) and on the practice fields. "It's one thing to hear about a major team decision after it's been made," Jones says. "But can you imagine watching the steps that led to a decision? Some of this, and we'd have to be careful about it, could be like a soap opera. Some of it's going to be controversial. But it'd be authentic."

Jones would be on the cutting edge of fan involvement if he ever goes ahead with this plan to offer live peeks into the Cowboys' world. He could also run into revenue-sharing roadblocks from other owners on this issue and on his intention to opt out of the NFL Properties revenue-sharing plan when the league's agreement with the teams expires in March 2004. "We've put everyone in the league on notice that we will be controlling our own logos starting in 2004," Jones says. A league spokesman says that if three quarters of the teams vote to continue splitting proceeds, the Cowboys will have to go along with the crowd. Lawsuits would probably not be too far behind.

The Patriots' Web-savvy owner, Bob Kraft, favors funneling all Internet pay sites through one NFL portal and splitting the revenue, with teams that generate the most traffic getting a proportionately larger number of dollars. "A camera in Jerry's place might be more valuable as part of an aggregation of sites," Kraft said on Monday. "In the short run the Cowboys and the Patriots might make less money, but in the long run it will be better for all of us."

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