NFL Media reveals new digs and ambitious plans in Inglewood

For a glimpse into the NFL’s media ambitions, step into the league’s new studio and office complex in Inglewood.

The NFL’s new West Coast home, part of Los Angeles Rams owner Stan Kroenke’s $ 5 billion, 298-acre Hollywood Park mixed residential area, features the latest technology. Its control room is anchored by a 12-foot wall of high-definition screens that can simultaneously display 253 different video feeds, including footage from the 30 NFL stadiums.

There are five sound stages, including a 5,970 square meter room for the NFL Network’s “Total Access” and “GameDay” shows. The stage features 360-degree camera views, a talent catwalk, and a spinning neon red, white and blue NFL logo – which was overtaken from Nashville after the 2019 NFL draft. The complex, which opens on Wednesday, also includes a podcast studio and a camera-ready newsroom.

“This facility was designed for the world we are in now and what we think the world will be like in the future,” said David Jurenka, NFL Los Angeles general manager and NFL Media senior vice president.

With its posh new excavations next to the SoFi stadium, the league wants to accelerate its media strategy. During its longstanding collaboration with its broadcast partners CBS, NBC, Fox and ESPN, the NFL has steadily sharpened its own profile in order to reach millions of its fans. In an era of falling TV ratings and difficulty attracting younger viewers, the league has placed more emphasis on building its own media properties – the NFL Network, NFL Films, the NFL RedZone Channel, the website, the NFL Game Pass and its popular NFL app.

“That’s how we reach the vast majority of our fans,” said NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. “So we have to keep raising the bar to give our fans a better experience, to give them better access, to give them better quality [and] to give them something unique. “

The NFL facility in Inglewood has 20 conference rooms known as huddles with advanced technology.

(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

NFL executives declined to disclose the cost of building the new complex, but Jurenka admitted it was “hundreds of millions of dollars.”

The two-year construction was made difficult by the coronavirus pandemic. The league spent an additional $ 3 million to redesign elements and install a state-of-the-art air filtration system, “touchless” doors and faucets, Plexiglas barriers, and an additional cooking station in the staff canteen instead of a salad bar.

Despite the challenges, the NFL faced a tough deadline to complete its project before the regular start of the season on Thursday. The league wanted the facility, especially because the Super Bowl will be held in Inglewood next year.

Inglewood “will be … the epicenter of the sport” [and] We’re right in the middle, ”said Goodell. “If content is created in this place, I think it gives us a unique opportunity that no other sport really offers.”

The move to Inglewood comes as the NFL looks to recover from the 2020 season. Pandemic health logs last year kept spectators away from many venues, including the new SoFi stadium, depressing team owners’ revenue. TV viewing rates for games decreased by about 7%. Still, the NFL held up well compared to other network television programs.

According to New York-based research firm Standard Media Index, national advertising revenue for NFL football increased 2% from the preseason in 2020-2021. The NFL Network and other networks that broadcast games had sales of more than $ 3.7 billion. TV stations separately collected hundreds of millions of local advertising dollars for commercial time related to NFL games.

Earlier this year, the league signed a number of new TV rights deals to bolster its financial base.

The value of these NFL TV rights agreements doubled to more than $ 100 billion over the 11-year term of the agreements that begin with the 2023 football season. In addition to contracts with its longtime TV partners, the NFL signed an average pact of over $ 1 billion per year for 15 Thursday Night football games per season, slated to run on Amazon Prime Video in 2023 competitions.)

ESPN + from Walt Disney Co., Peacock from NBCUniversal, Paramount + from ViacomCBS and Fox’s Tubi platform will have the rights to stream some NFL games – a high priority for the broadcasters and the NFL.

“Streaming isn’t just Netflix and Disney +, it’s cellphone companies, Facebook and Twitter and Snap,” said Marc Ganis, president of Chicago-based consultancy SportsCorp. “Expect the NFL to do a lot more direct-to-consumer.”

The NFL is also experimenting with other ways to expand its base, including legal gambling. Last week, Fox Bet, BetMGM, PointsBet and WynnBET were named as approved sports betting providers for the 2021 season.

“When we look at the NFL, it’s a unit that has gone way beyond just hosting games … selling tickets so people come and watch,” Ganis said. “It is developing into a full-fledged, global multimedia company.”

Main control room in the NFL complex in Inglewood.

The NFL’s Transmission Operations Center or main control room in Inglewood can process more than 250 feeds from the league newsroom and remote locations, including the SoFi stadium next door.

(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

The league has hired investment banking firm Goldman Sachs to review strategic options, including finding investors with experience in television, digital media, or sports betting.

“We’re not looking for capital here,” said Goodell. “But we are looking for strategic partners who can help take our assets to another level and really expand them.”

For 18 years, the NFL Network and operated from a nondescript three-story office building in Culver City.

The location on Washington Boulevard “was a retrofit,” said Jurenka. “We just added and added and we got it working. But it was never designed for the world we live in today – or for the world that will evolve over the next 20 years. “

Transmission equipment became creaky – and prone to failure.

“We literally kept our boards together with parts we bought on eBay,” said Dave Shaw, head of media operations at NFL Media.

The new room is wired for future upgrades. “This is scalable to any technology – from 4K, 8K to anything in the future,” added Jurenka.

There are generators and backup transmission systems. “We’re not going to lose performance here,” boasted Shaw, a veteran of the infamous 2013 34-minute Super Bowl XLVII blackout, a malfunction caused by equipment installed by a New Orleans utility.

Exterior view of the NFL's new office building in Hollywood Park, Inglewood, next to SoFi Stadium.

The National Football League offices are located next to SoFi Stadium in Inglewood.

(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

The NFL is the Kroenke organization’s first tenant in its seven-story office tower, which is about 50 meters west of the stadium.

The NFL signed a long-term lease for the 214,063 square feet of office space and adjoining studios, which will add another 74,922 square feet. Gensler, the architect, worked with the NFL to customize the space, which includes an aesthetic inspired by the iconography of the NFL: backsplash tiles were made specifically for the league – with X, O and small arrows to indicate matchday Simulate game calls. Conference rooms – there are more than 20 – are called “huddle” rooms, and each is named for NFL action like “Hail Mary”, “Flea Flicker” and “Blitz”.

“We’re trying to bring this NFL piece into it – without overdoing it,” said Alissa Lieppman, vice president of the NFL and director of planning and culture.

Ceiling lights in the hallways resemble diamonds in the field. There is a spacious “living room” overlooking the new stadium for dignitaries and visiting staff coming to Los Angeles to battle the Rams and Chargers. The space contains a huge TV screen (one of more than 800 on-site), couches, and a kitchenette stocked with skimmed and old-school half-and-half.

Approximately 850 of the NFL’s Los Angeles-based employees, including departments outside of NFL Media, will be working outside of the room.

There’s a 60-foot mural, Gamechangers Hall, depicting NFL legends like Peyton Manning, Vince Lombardi, and Bo Jackson, the work of more than 20 street performers. And every floor is equipped with a “mother’s room” for breastfeeding women.

“We have a lot of women moving up in the organization,” said Lieppman.

Reception lobby in the Inglewood National Football League office.

The NFL reception lobby in Inglewood. Floors and other surfaces are designed for easy cleaning.

(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

The Times sports writer Sam Farmer contributed to this report.

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