SBJ/May 27-June 2, 2013/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Season-ticket holders getting mobile RedZone

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The NFL will make its live game look-in channel, NFL RedZone, available for free on mobile phones to the league’s roughly 1 million season-ticket holders by this fall, said team sources who were briefed on the plan last week by the NFL.

The move is part of a new, ambitious league effort to focus on season-ticket holders as a way to fill stadiums and reward the clubs’ best customers. The RedZone offering, the details of which are still being worked on, would not be limited to phones from the league’s mobile sponsor, Verizon, the sources said.

The NFL-Verizon deal expires after the 2014 season. Owners last week were updated on that deal at their spring meeting in Boston as well as being briefed on the season-ticket-holder initiative, the sources said.

Currently, only Verizon offers access to live games via mobile (for the Sunday night, Monday night and Thursday night games) as well as RedZone. But the team sources were clear that all carriers would be able to offer RedZone to season-ticket holders. The offering to season-ticket holders also wouldn’t be limited to in-stadium service.

Verizon did not reply for comment.

RedZone provides whip-around game coverage, taking fans to action across the league when a team moves inside its opponent’s 20-yard line. Its coverage airs between 1 p.m. ET on Sunday and the end of the day’s late-afternoon games. In-stadium, the coverage would give season-ticket holders a way to see action and highlights from other games while simultaneously attending a home team’s game.

It’s one part of the league’s larger effort focused on season-ticket holders.

“Buying a season ticket shouldn’t be just an entrance to 10 games. It should be your passport to a relationship with the club you are a fan of,” said Brian Lafemina, the NFL’s vice president of club business development. “NFL marketing is working on a brand and name around this. … It really will be a platform we will roll out leaguewide.”

The league is not the only entity offering enticements to season-ticket holders. Clubs and sponsors are slated to get involved, and some have already started moving in that direction. The Kansas City Chiefs, for example, last year offered a loyalty program that allows season-ticket holders to earn points that can be used to buy items such as autographed jerseys.

Sponsors could offer season-ticket holders discounts on their products, as another example of a concept making the rounds.

The NFL in recent years has been making a big push to improve the in-game experience as a way to lure fans to stadiums and away from plush in-home entertainment systems. This latest iteration focuses specifically on the fans whom the NFL considers its best customers and how to keep them happy.

Arthur Blank, owner of the Atlanta Falcons and founder of The Home Depot, said today’s customers want more for less.

“For the foreseeable future, we are in a value-based economy,” he said. “People are more concerned about discretionary dollars, and there’s more competition for those discretionary dollars in every area.”

Over the next few weeks, the NFL and an eight-member fan engagement committee, formed in December, will meet to hash out the details of the season-ticket-holder perk program. Each of the eight committee members represents one team from each of the league’s eight divisions. That committee’s input is crucial, in part to shield league executives from any criticism that they are telling teams how to run their businesses.

The initiative is being handled by Lafemina, who reports to Eric Grubman, executive vice president of NFL Ventures and business operations.

One such issue the committee may have to address with the RedZone offering is that some season-ticket holders might be unable to use the new mobile product in-stadium if a team’s facility has poor, if not nonexistent, wireless coverage. Getting stadiums wired is a key league goal. Some stadiums are up to speed and provide full coverage, but many others are dead zones for Wi-Fi coverage.

“We have to solve the Wi-Fi problem,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell told reporters last week, “which is to try to bring in more capacity so people can use their phones and their mobile devices in our stadiums.”

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