O'Donnell: Could 'The Irishman' help make Netflix a platform player with the NFL?

  • Actor Robert De Niro has the lead role in "The Irishman," the motion picture available on Netflix.

    Actor Robert De Niro has the lead role in "The Irishman," the motion picture available on Netflix. Associated Press

  • Actor Al Pacino at the world premiere of "The Irishman" in September at the New York Film Festival.

    Actor Al Pacino at the world premiere of "The Irishman" in September at the New York Film Festival. Associated Press

  • Actor Joe Pesci attends the world premiere of "The Irishman" Sept. 27 at the New York Film Festival.

    Actor Joe Pesci attends the world premiere of "The Irishman" Sept. 27 at the New York Film Festival. Associated Press

Updated 11/29/2019 7:27 PM

FORGET ABOUT A HOLIDAY with the Bears, Lions, Cowboys, Bills, Saints and Falcons.

If purely unscientific monitoring this Thanksgiving week has been any indicator, a prime topic of social chatter is the Netflix drop of "The Irishman" on Wednesday.


That's the unwieldy new Martin Scorsese film based on an exaggerated 2004 book that detailed the claims of a Mobbed-up Teamster thug named Frank Sheeran.

Before his death in 2003, Sheeran said he was around dark events of the second half of the American 20th century, ranging from JFK's inherited CIA fiasco at Cuba's Bay of Pigs to the disappearance and probable murder of Jimmy Hoffa.

Sheeran's boldest claim is that he shot and killed his old patron Hoffa.

Table the tales for a moment and track the broader implications of the Netflix/Scorsese collaboration as it could apply the NFL:

The streaming service spent a reported $180 million to enable Scorsese to gather Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, Al Pacino and all to deliver massively buzz-generating new content.

by signing up you agree to our terms of service

Significant public reaction -- which should translate to even more new subscribers -- would appear to indicate that the Netflix investment was sharp.

It is a stated goal of the company's overseers to aggressively pursue expansive and impacting new content.

Enter the NFL.

Discussions involving the next generation of league TV contracts are well underway and could be announced as early as next year.

There is likely to be little deviation from the current rotation involving Fox, NBC, CBS, ESPN and comparatively minimal dualities with Amazon Prime.

The lone possibility of anything new is a spun-off chunk for ABC.

Enter Netflix.

The service -- with more than 60 million subscribers in the U.S. -- has billions to invest and there is no better visual media investment in America than the NFL.


In the next round of contracts, primary live presentation of games, including the Super Bowl, will remain with legacied partners.

But what about play-by-play content after its live showing?

What is to preclude Netflix from reaching the right dollar amount with the NFL to maintain and present a library of very recent games, perhaps even spiced by additional new peripherals?

Answer: Nothing.

For Netflix, it would be a beachhead with the gold standard of visual sports content in the United States.

For the NFL, it would an all-new revenue stream ("found money").

And for the league's existing broadcast partners, it would present the possibility of a lower hit on new rights fees and a compendium of production possibilities with the increasingly well-resourced streaming service.

An exercise in fantasia?

No more so than Scorsese's thoroughly distracting casting of Pacino as Hoffa.

And however annoying that is, both director and Netflix made bank and buzz on the ambitious initiative.

Which is just what NFL owners would relish as they stream into an uncertain new age of profit, platform and content maximization.

MEMO TO DENNIS WELSH, vice president and general manager of WFLD-Channel 32:

Chicago wants to see homegrown Jimmy Garoppolo and San Francisco continue to pursue their quixotic -- and likely premature -- quest toward Super Bowl 54.

They're a young and exciting football team, even without Garoppolo's distinguished Arlington Heights roots.

They're also getting significant contributions on defense from Jimmie Ward, the talented safety who starred at Northern Illinois up to and including the Huskies' remarkable appearance in the 2013 Orange Bowl.

That desire to view would include Sunday's game between the Forty-Niners (10-1) at Baltimore (9-2), a compelling match that 58% of the country -- including Detroit -- will see.

Locally, your consumers instead will be saddled with a piece of tripe involving Green Bay (8-3) and the New York Giants (2-9) (Noon, Thom Brennaman, Chris Spielman).

Only 17% of the country will have the opportunity to ignore that must-flee TV.

When you see a piece of felonious market insensitivity like this pop up on your desk, pay a little extra attention and speed the appropriate electronica to Fox Sports HQ to make the necessary correction.

Very simple.

In the spirit of the holiday weekend, any suggestion of executive catatonia will be deferred.

STREET-BEATIN': On the subject of NFL/TV catatonia, who in the name of Smokey Robinson would book a C-list country act like Brothers Osborne to play halftime of a Thanksgiving game in Motown? (On the other hand, Bobby Bare long ago thrilled the barnyard maestros with a tune called "Detroit City" that Tom Jones later infused with his Welsh mountain voice.) ... With the padlocks finally off the Reinsdorf exchequer, Rick Renteria has been doing a strong job this week of selling the probable unleashing of the White Sox in 2020. And not a decade too soon. ... For keenest Mikan drillers only: The last time DePaul opened 8-0 was 1986-87 when Joey Meyer's starting lineup included Rod Strickland, Dallas Comegys, Kevin Edwards, Terence Greene and Kevin Golden. The Blue Demons made it to the Sweet Sixteen before being upset by Dale Brown and LSU, finishing 28-3. ... Dean Richards -- perhaps the most underrated talent in Chicago broadcasting -- would be a most intriguing "get" for Mike Thomas and revamping AM-1000 in the new year. (Thomas greatly opened up the boundaries of his morning franchise while pushing WBZ-FM -- "The Sports Hub" -- toward the top of Boston radio; the superior interviewing and analytical skills of Richards bring mainstream accessibility to most any topic.) ... Nick Mitrovich, a versatile staff producer at Channel 32 News, is the lead contender to become the Bulls permanent new P.A. announcer. That reminds that radio voice Chuck Swirsky served in that role from 1980 to 1983 while movin' on up from WCFL-AM (1000) to WGN-AM (720). (Swirsky also passed on the chance to handle public-address at Cubs home games starting in 1983, instead recommending a bearded possum at The Daily Herald, who also turned it down.) ... With the prospects for thoroughbred racing on the Chicago circuit increasingly bleak for 2020 -- only three days total of live action between Hawthorne and Arlington until the end of May -- senior state steward Eddie Arroyo has taken his pension and headed for the judges stand at the Fair Grounds racino in New Orleans. ... Also on the hoof 'n tail beat, Jim Miller (Prospect High, Class of '93) has emerged as a contributing turf expert to the weekly gaming shows of Joe Ostrowski on WSCR-AM (670) and Mike North and Carmen DeFalco on ESPN-AM (1000). (With the blind-darting North, speculators should always, always go the other way.) ... And the once-insightful Cris Collinsworth, who continues to melt down in front of America's "Sunday Night" eyes, noted last week that Jimmy Garoppolo, "Doesn't do well under pressure." This while Jimmy G was leading SF to a 38-9 win over Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers.

• Jim O'Donnell's Sports & Media column appears Thursday and Sunday. Reach him at jimodonnelldh@yahoo.com.

Article Comments ()
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.