Pizza chain Papa John’s reported disappointing quarterly earnings, and then execs threw gas on the fire by blaming NFL leaders for the season’s “significant decline” in TV ratings.
Shares closed at $62.26, down 9%, partly due to doughy quarterly numbers but also due to the alarms raised by executives about the ongoing angst over player protests, which have been one of the major factors in the league’s ratings downturn. For Papa John’s the equation is simple: Fewer viewers equals fewer pizza orders.
“NFL leadership has hurt Papa John’s shareholders,” CEO John Schnatter fumed during a conference call with Wall Street analysts. “This should have been nipped in the bud a year and a half ago.”
Commissioner Roger Goodell, he added, deserves much of the blame for the spiraling of the saga, which began with quarterback Colin Kaepernick kneeling during the national anthem and has since grown to similar displays by dozens or hundreds of players each week. “We’re certainly disappointed that NFL and its leadership did not resolve the ongoing situation to the satisfaction of all parties this year, year-and-a-half ago,” he said. “Good or bad, leadership starts at the top, and this is an example of poor leadership.”
Added CMO Brandon Rhoten: “The NFL was eighth of the top 10 prime time shows. So it’s experiencing a significant decline, which is leading us to have to look at other investment to create that consumer preference of our brand.”
Other NFL advertisers such as Kohl’s and Buffalo Wild Wings have expressed confidence in the league in recent days and say they are not deterred by the controversy or how it has been handled. On Monday, NBC sales exec Don Lovinger said inventory for Super Bowl LII is nearly sold out, with the network projecting $350 million in ad revenue from the game.