SBD/Issue 81/Franchises

Broncos Struggle At Gate, On TV While Missing Playoffs Again

Broncos Have Earned 332 Consecutive Sellouts,
But Invesco Field Had Empty Seats In '10

While the Broncos remain Denver's "flagship franchise, there are cracks in the foundation," according to Jim Armstrong of the DENVER POST. Attendance declines in other NFL cities "have been offset by record-setting television ratings," but in Denver, the Broncos' TV ratings "have plunged, though their games remain far and away the most watched weekly program in the market during the fall." The Broncos averaged a 23.8 local rating for their games this season, and the numbers "nosedived" during the final three games with 20.1, 14.4 and 19.0 ratings. The 23.8 average rating is down from a 41.6 local rating in '98, the team's last Super Bowl season. The Broncos have 332 consecutive home sellouts despite missing the playoffs in five consecutive seasons, though "thousands of empty seats were commonplace this season" at Invesco Field at Mile High. When fans "aren't using their tickets, or watching on TV, a franchise knows it has problems." Broncos President Joe Ellis said of the declines, "They're significant, no question. We have to show the TV audience here, the casual fan if you will, a better product. ... We can't take for granted that we're going to sell out and continue to have tremendous crowds." The Broncos "typically experience a 1 percent to 3 percent attrition rate among season-ticket holders," and Ellis "projects similar numbers this year." Ellis: "We've kind of hit rock bottom." Armstrong noted the Broncos, "like most NFL teams, have worked to enhance the game-day experience." They are "running more highlights and fantasy league information in their video boards," and they "provided some season-ticket holders" with FanVision this season (DENVER POST, 1/9).

JUST WHAT THE DOCTOR ORDERED? In Denver, Anthony Cotton wrote last week's announcement that John Elway will return to the Broncos as Exec VP/Football Operations "has certainly jazzed up a region eager to make sure the moribund seasons of the past few years are not repeated." But while Elway was "one of the greatest on-field leaders of all time, questions have been raised about his ability to quarterback the team from the executive offices." Some of those questions "stem from the fact that Elway's experience running a team has been limited to football's minors, the idled Arena Football League." Others "point to a personal business background that has scored some touchdowns -- but has suffered from a number of painful sacks too." Tim Schmidt, Elway's partner in a pair of steakhouses, said, "The Broncos are a brand just like a restaurant and a car dealership, and no one understands that brand better than John Elway. ... He knows building that brand is about getting the customer base excited about the Denver Broncos again" (DENVER POST, 1/9). ESPN's Adam Schefter said, "Anyone who had any questions as about how extensive John Elway's powers will be in Denver needs to only look where his office is. Elway took the oversized office that once belonged to Dan Reeves, Mike Shanahan and Josh McDaniels" ("Sunday NFL Countdown," ESPN, 1/8). Meanwhile, the DENVER POST's Jim Armstrong wrote under the header, "Marketing For Denver Pro Sports Teams A Highly Competitive Business" (DENVER POST, 1/9).

LOOKING FOR A COACH: In Denver, Jones & Legwold report the Broncos are scheduled to interview former Panthers coach John Fox today for their vacant coaching job and are "scheduled to meet" later in the week with Texans offensive coordinator Rick Dennison and Jaguars offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter. The team also is "expected to request permission to speak" to Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams (DENVER POST, 1/10). NFL Network's Michael Lombardi reported a "lot of people that I've talked to around the league are concerned about John Elway's inexperience" in regards to the hiring process. Lombardi: "It's going to limit the guys that he can bring in" ("NFL Gameday Morning," NFL Network, 1/9).

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