Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Empty Seats and empty wallets

In a development that wont come as a surprise to anyone who has followed this blog for a while now, I got distracted away from my original article by interesting topic, namely this article from ProFootballTalk that reports that the NFL are looking at new ways to entice fans off their couches and into the stadium.

Proposed plans include increasing the amount of fantasy data that is available to fans at games, being displayed via the large screens. Other plans are to put entertaining and exciting things on the screens to fill the gaps inbetween plays and during TV timeouts. And then there are plans to increase wireless and mobile connectivity in order to allow fans to do more with things like Facebook and Twitter while at the stadium.

Which brings me back to a thought that I've had for a long time; the NFL is like the WWE or Hollywood, they'll continue to make money in spite of themselves.

Or in other words, what kind of idiot actually believes that fans at live games really give a crap about facebook or twitter? How much of a brainless moron do you have to be to think that the missing ingredient to the game day experience is more social networking? On what planet does an executive really believe that if fans were able to spend more time of their cell phones then they would abandon the allure of their warm couches in favour of a plastic seat in a bitterly cold stadium?

There are predominantly two things that drive fans away from live games; crappy play and the cost.

Note that the Green Bay Packers, Pittsburgh Steelers, New England Patriots, Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints have had little trouble lately selling out there stadiums. In some cases they have waiting lists for tickets that are almost as long as the local electoral rolls.

The simple fact is that good teams attract fans and bad teams don't. Why are Jacksonville and Tampa always up there among the teams that struggle the most to sell tickets? Because their teams suck, that's why.

The second factor is cost.

And this is what I love most about the NFL, because like most big businesses they have a laundry list of things which they believe are responsible for the decline in revenues (at least at stadiums), except for the notion that maybe, just maybe, people aren't willing to pay the price they're charging for the product.

I can understand why to some degree. Psychologically what you're saying to a businessman is that "hey, your product isn't as good as you think it is". When he looks at his balance sheet and sees his TV revenue soaring, this also flies in the face of what he can see on paper.

But the simple fact is that going to a football game live is too expensive. Just looking at some of the data from people like Ticketmaster, and having listened to fans moan about this in the past, it's painfully obvious that the cost of going to a live game is excessive for most people. A family of four, with tickets, parking and consumables (food and drink) included could potentially run up a bill of between $400-500 for one game.

That's simply ridiculous. How in the name of God can you expect a somewhat hard up family in Jacksonville or Tampa to justify spending that kind of money, especially in this economic climate? $400-500 for what, 3 hours of entertainment? And given the TV breaks, possession changes and the end changes etc it just makes no sense at all. You're paying all that money for perhaps 30 minutes of actual football, if that.

Compare that to the price of watching the NFL on TV. Even with all the various cable packages etc, plus consumables during all the games, you're probably not going to spend $400 in a single season, for all the games. There is no comparison.

Twitter, Facebook, cheerleaders, etc. All of this stuff is nothing but a sideshow. Personally when I'm watching football the last thing I want to do is look at Facebook or check out the other games. I'm watching that game for a reason, because it's the most interesting to me. Sure, finding out scores from other games is fine and interesting and all that, but it's probably the least important thing during a game.

If the NFL wants to attract fans back to San Diego, Jacksonville or Tampa, then it needs to lower the ticket prices, parking fees and consumable fees in those markets. It's just a simple fact of life that those markets are not as valuable from a live event perspective as places like Chicago, New York, Pittsburgh and Green Bay.

Just deal with it. Stop making excuses. Stop wasting time on things that make very little difference. Stop trying to convince yourselves that it's anything other than the crappy product that those teams produce combined with excessive costs for going to watch them.

And stop blacking out games.

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