After writing about Wabash’s stadium and reading a bit of preview about the upcoming NFL season, it has been reinforced that there are some cracks in the shield. Not everything is quite so hunky dory over in football land as the league office would have you believe. And it’s most evident in the stadium.
Reading today’s TMQ, there is a mention that the Oakland Raiders are only making 53,000 seats available for football. It was 63,000 last year, and there are about 65,000 seats in the stadium.* This follows the Raiders’ last proposal for a new stadium with just 50,000 seats, by far the smallest in the league. I don’t know if Oakland ever had a prayer of hosting a Super Bowl, but that stadium would surely take it out of the running. This all follows Jacksonville also reducing their seating by about 10,000 and their infamous tarps.
*If you’re curious, the A’s make just a hair over 35,000 seats available. And, well, you probably heard about the sewage issues they’ve dealt with. My default position is “opposed” to new stadiums, but there are times when it’s definitely called for.
Also per this week’s TMQ, Jacksonville is contemplating showing the Red Zone channel on their jumbotron. I’ve never really watched the Red Zone channel, but I’ve heard nothing but rave reviews. I’m sure it’s a rollicking good time, nothing but scoring and big stands. But, if you’re going to watch that, why spend $60 per ticket to do it?* Especially when, if my memory serves, most have to subscribe to Sunday Ticket to get it at home? Seems to me the much better deal is to spend $300 in one shot and get access to every game out there for a year (plus Red Zone) and enjoy it from the comfort of my couch and high-def TV. And the much shorter lines of my own custom-stocked concession stand.
*Not to mention the Jags have/had the lowest ticket prices in the league.
That’s just looking at enjoyment at home versus enjoyment at the stadium, though. What’s even more interesting to me is the changing attitudes around the league. This is most likely true of all sports, but it’s most evident with the NFL. In times past, a blackout was a powerful tool for sports owners. It’s the reason why the Blackhawks didn’t televise any home games for decades. If you really wanted to see the game and, more importantly, line the owner’s pockets, you would buy a ticket. In this age of TV deals in the billions and the untold advertising dollars that come along with that, though, the blackout is about the worst thing that can happen to a modern day NFL owner. Teams bend over backwards to say they are close enough to capacity to show the game on TV. That is the main reason why teams that have trouble drawing (ie Jacksonville and Oakland) are quickly downgrading their stadium capacities. They want to declare more sellouts to ensure their games are on TV more, thus guaranteeing they see all the TV money possible. Because make no mistake, while NFL owners certainly don’t mind your ticket and concession money, it’s chump change compared to TV dollars. The fear of a blackout is the owners’ real concern over declining attendance, not ticket money.
There is a bit of synergy here, though. As mentioned before, the majority of fans don’t have a problem staying home to watch the game, either. Sure, you want plenty of butts in the seats to make for a good atmosphere for everybody involved on both sides of the screen. But as has been mentioned on this very blog, high definition is quickly becoming the standard. Even if it’s not in your home, chances are you know somebody who has it. There’s also a good chance you know somebody who has Sunday Ticket if you don’t have it yourself. Or you live close enough to your chosen team that it doesn’t matter.* Or, barring that, there’s always the nearest Buffalo Wild Wings or sports bar. Neither are too hard to find. Food and drink are significantly cheaper both at home or at a restaurant/bar than they are at the stadium, and you are getting a better viewing experience on TV these days than you do in the stadium. It all adds up to a better idea to stay home.
*I fall into the latter category. My wife does not. Thankfully, the Packers are the national game pretty often. Doubly thankfully, her family (who live close by) subscribe to Sunday Ticket, so the Packers are never really out of reach for her.
I don’t know when the current media deal for the NFL ends, but I do think the blackout will become a thing of the past in the near future. It just doesn’t make any sense any more. It ends up punishing everybody rather than being a true encouragement to go to the stadium.
Although, you know, whether you’re watching at home or at the stadium, you might still be stuck watching the Jaguars. Have fun with that one, London!