The NFL wants to target kids with a Nickelodeon broadcast, but they’ll get nostalgic adults instead

Will Spongebob get kids to turn off Red Zone and watch an actual football game?

Will Spongebob get kids to turn off Red Zone and watch an actual football game?
Screenshot: Nickelodeon

It’s no secret that the NFL wants a piece of the younger demographic. But SpongeBob graphics and slime won’t cut it.

Today CBS announced that Nickelodeon, a ViacomCBS network, will broadcast a wildcard playoff game on Jan. 10, 2021.

“The NFL Wild Card Game on Nickelodeon will feature one-of-a-kind kid-focused content and Nick-themed elements throughout, including a special halftime presentation, guest reporters and original on-field graphics, virtual filters and more,” CBS wrote in a statement.

As for the pregame, you can turn to the SpongeBob SportsPants Countdown Special. No, seriously.

For the past two years, Disney XD has been telecasting its own family friendly version of the Pro Bowl. Even though no one watches the Pro Bowl, networks are starting to believe that they’ll attract more kids just by putting their product on a children’s network.

But do we really think that slime and cartoon graphics will bring in a young demo? No. They’ll bring in aging dorks who are already football fans, like you and me.

This morning, my Twitter echo chamber was filled with posts from sports journalists and media types celebrating the announcement. They’re probably more excited than the handful of kids who still watch Nick — another network with a shrinking TV audience, losing the streaming war.

According to Nielsen ratings data, Nickelodeon has lost around 60 percent of its audience since 2010. So the kids who actually grew up on SpongeBob are now in their teens, 20s, and 30s (i.e. a part of the adult CBS demo).

And I don’t blame the youngins for turning off Nick. What kid would willingly watch commercials in 2020?

Targeting kids in a TV deal won’t solve the NFL’s demographics problem. Maybe the problem is football itself.

In September 2019, participation in high school sports fell for the first time in 30 years. What sport had the biggest drop-off? Football. Participation in high school football has also declined for a decade. Concussions and other health concerns are turning kids and parents away from the game.

The NFL and CBS are delusional if they think they can woo young audiences from a dying medium.

Better luck next time with Disney+. 

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