WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - The public outrage over bad calls by replacement refs just might have an upside for the NFL, a Purdue University expert contends.
Richard Feinberg, a professor of consumer sciences and retailing, said it's a clear case of all publicity is good publicity.
"We know that repetition increases awareness and interest. Although the information is negative, more people will be attracted to watching games," Feinberg said. "Some of these people may never have seen an NFL game before. Some occasional viewers will watch longer. And all of them will talk about what they saw. That's good for viewership."
The NFL is in the midst of a labor dispute with its regular referees, so the league has called up replacements, many of whom have made questionable calls during the first three weeks of the season.
The controversy came to a head Monday night, when Seattle beat Green Bay 14-12 on a missed call by an official on the final play.
But Feinberg said that even when a team and its fans think they've been robbed, there can be a positive.
"It builds brand cohesiveness," he said. "Fans are more strongly backing their team. This may increase sales of tickets and merchandise."
A train-wreck mentality can also bring in more viewers on Sundays, Feinberg said.
"People will be attracted to NFL games because they anticipate seeing blown calls and furious coaches," he said. "This should increase viewership at the same time the viewers are lamenting how bad it all is. People want to do what other people are doing. The fact that everyone is talking about this means that if you are not doing the same, you are out of it, and people don't want to be out of it."
A person familiar with the situation said the NFL and its locked-out officials have resumed talks.