SBD/November 21, 2012/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NFL Fans Increasingly Prefer The At-Home Experience Over Attending Games

Adding Wi-Fi system to an NFL stadium can around $8M to install
NFL ticket buyers "increasingly say the stadium experience is not what it used to be," according to ESPN’s Bob Ley. And fans staying at home to watch games on HDTV with the "ability to see every single scoring play ... presents a challenge to the NFL." While NFL TV ratings are up 12% "compared to five years ago, NFL ticket sales have been declining by four percent annually over that same time and last year's average attendance was the lowest in 13 years." Ley: "New stadiums are being built and those spending major dollars certainly get the top-end amenities, but the mass of fans confront this growing reality: Actually going to the game can be less attractive than watching it at home." NFL Exec VP/Business Ventures Eric Grubman said, "There's no crisis. We're selling in the high 90 -- 95, 97, 98 -- percent of the tickets and frankly people are clamoring for tickets in a lot of markets.”

IMPROVING THE PRODUCT: Grubman noted, "The at-home experience from the fan's perspective has gotten much better and it's gotten cheaper." ESPN’s Darren Rovell said that Grubman stated the "fans in the stands are the lifeblood of the league but he makes no apologies for the juggernaut that its TV business has become." Rovell said the league "knows it has to improve in-stadium internet connectivity" and is "monitoring at least six stadiums … that were recently wired for Wi-Fi." Rovell said the NFL "should have about 12 teams hooked up to Wi-Fi by the end of the season." Rovell added, "Grubman acknowledges that building an in-stadium Wi-Fi network from scratch costs at least $8 million but it's an investment in a new breed of fans. … Grubman doesn't want to just match the home experience at the stadium. He wants to make it even better."

KEEPING PACE: 49ers CEO Jed York, whose franchise is building a new stadium, said, "You need to have a software-driven stadium." York: "It's about making sure that the RedZone Channel is there, that fantasy stats are there but it's not an application. It's not something that’s just a one-size-fits-all. You have to make sure that you have an entire technology stack that allows your fans to have their own unique experience" ("OTL," ESPN, 11/18).
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