SBJ/July 29-August 4, 2013/Franchises

Focus group helps Texans program new video boards

The Houston Texans’ end zone video boards debuting Aug. 17 for the team’s first home preseason game not only will be the largest in the NFL, they’ll also enjoy the distinction of having had their own focus group.

The Texans last month brought together a group of fans to receive input on how best to program and use the giant new amenities, which are 30 percent larger than the massive center-hung board at the Dallas Cowboys’ newly named AT&T Stadium.

Focus groups, while better known in politics, are not new in the NFL, or sports.

The Texans have used focus groups since 2002, even in advance of the team’s debut season.

“We did the focus group in house and it basically affirmed our direction,” said Jamey Rootes, the club’s president. “Replays, in-game stats, out-of-town scores with periodic highlights and fantasy stats were all hot buttons. One interesting thing was they encouraged us to not [to] try to do too much. They do not want the board to overpower the live viewing experience that they love.”

The in-game experience is a hot-button topic in the NFL and has been for several years, as the allure of in-home entertainment systems draws fans away from stadiums.

The Texans stage three to seven focus groups annually, most focused on the broader issue of how fans experience the game. But with the installation of the NFL’s largest video boards, the team chose to invite 10 fans in to discuss just that.

Diane Crossey, Texans senior director of event operations who moderated the hour-plus focus group, noted that the fans said they do not want other games on the video boards to serve as a distraction and that the subject of locker room cameras did not come up. The NFL is allowing teams to broadcast in-stadium from locker rooms at halftime and pregame.

The Texans’ new boards are 53 feet high and 277 feet wide. By comparison, the screens at AT&T Stadium are 72 feet high and 160 feet wide.

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