Why is the NFL marginalizing NFL Network?

The NFL launched NFL Network more than 20 years ago with big plans that never came close to fruition. Still, the operation survived for two decades.

Now, at a time when the NFL is more profitable than ever and its franchises are skyrocketing in value, the NFL is marginalizing the league-owned broadcast operation.

It makes no sense. Some industry insiders believe the decision to move Good Morning Football from New York to L.A. and the cancellation of Total Access flows from a desire to strip down expenses in advance of foisting the operation onto ESPN.

Against this backdrop, Ben Fischer of Sports Business Journal reports that it's far more simple than that.

"League execs are growing more aware of how little studio shows and on-air talent really drive the business, and are making brutally practical decisions," Fischer writes. “It’s as basic as the costs are really high and the revenues are not."

That's fine. But wasn't that the case from 2003 through 2023? This isn't a new development. There was a time when the league realized that the benefits of having an in-house platform for publicity and/or messaging outweighed the costs.

Something has changed; that's the real news.

The league no longer values having those studio shows and/or the on-air talent who communicate the preferred talking points.

Without fresh content and conversation about the NFL, why would anyone watch NFL Network? Today’s offerings consist of a replay of Super Bowl XXVIII, 30 minutes about Jerry Rice, and three episodes of A Football Life (Joe Namath, Mike Vick, Doug Flutie).

The days of "'Why am I watching it?' . . . 'Because it’s on TV'" are over. The stuff that NFL Network primarily airs now can be found anywhere, at any time. And if the goal is to maximize profit, the league should just sell the package of NFLN-exclusive games to the highest bidder and shut the whole thing down.

That would be the smart business decision. If, after 20 years of propping up NFLN, the league is finally going to make business decisions, that would be the one to make.

Football is family? No. Football is balance sheets. And the league is finally applying that standard to its in-house media operation.