SBJ/March 31-April 6, 2014/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Ticket revenue rises slightly as prices inch up

NFL ticket revenue increased roughly 4 percent in the 2013-14 season from the year before, a notable increase from the lower single-digit increases of previous years, according to sources familiar with the data. News of the increase was presented to owners at the meeting.

In total, 18 teams raised their season-ticket prices last year, and 13 kept them flat. One team (the league wouldn’t identify which one) lowered prices.

Since the 2008 financial crash, and then in the more recent years with a heavy focus on keeping stadiums full, NFL ticket revenue has been flat to only slightly up for the league. While a 4 percent increase is not a hefty jump, it is a sign teams are more comfortable bumping up prices.

Additionally, in some of the cases where the average ticket price is flat, that description doesn’t tell the whole story. Take the Jacksonville Jaguars, for example, who are in the flat category. As Jaguars President Mark Lamping noted, Jacksonville shifted 1,500 seats at EverBank Field from non-premium to premium seating. Premium seats do not count toward a club’s average ticket price, so while the Jaguars’ average ticket price officially was flat, the team’s ticket revenue was up.

Dennis Lauscha, president of the New Orleans Saints, said his team had not raised ticket prices in recent years but notified their season-ticket holders of an increase for 2014 earlier this month.

What could not be determined is how much extra revenue the league took in with the increase. But the growth could explain in part the higher-than-expected jump in the salary cap for 2014, increasing by $10 million, to $133 million. Some of that increase is due to revenue that will come from the new CBS Thursday night TV package, but many league followers remained puzzled over where the last few million dollars per club came in. It’s possible that higher-than-expected ticket revenue gave the cap that boost.

The NFL decided not to loosen rules further on audio prompts telling fans to get loud.
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MAKE A LITTLE LESS NOISE: The NFL has taken numerous strides in recent years to make the in-stadium experience more enjoyable. Last week, however, the league took at least one step in the opposite direction, deciding to pull back on one particular in-stadium element.

The NFL last year let teams use audio crowd prompts up to 20 seconds before a snap, dropping from the league’s prior 30-second rule. The NFL’s fan-experience committee had wanted to drop the time even further, to 15 seconds before the snap, but the competition committee balked at that suggestion. Further, the league ruled that as soon as the center’s hands go on the ball, even if that occurs outside the 20-second mark, the audio prompts must stop then. So, if the center’s hands go on the ball 30 seconds before a snap, the prompts must cease at that point.

Bornstein: A formal goodbye
Photo by: GETTY IMAGES

There were two areas where the league decided to add to its fan-experience initiatives. In-game injury reports must now be put on stadium video boards or ribbon boards at the same time they are announced in the press box. (Currently, many teams do not post them in-stadium at all). Second, locker room camera footage will be used in-stadium during next season’s three London games and the Super Bowl. All teams currently are required to have the locker room cameras in place, but there is no mandate on how to, or if to, use the footage. It’s unclear if the London and Super Bowl games are a first step to mandating use during other games.

BRAVO, BORNSTEIN: NFL Network President and CEO Steve Bornstein received three ovations from the owners as he said goodbye at what was his last annual meeting. Bornstein arrived at the NFL in 2002 after a career at ESPN and helped create the NFL Network and craft a series of TV deals with ever-escalating rights fees. He announced his plans to depart last summer.

Bornstein said he will be at the NFL draft in May, though, and one source said he would also manage the NFL Honors program, the awards showcase the league hosts in the Super Bowl city the night before the game.

Stephen Ross’ Dolphins are expected to bid for the Super Bowl if stadium renovations occur.
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TAKING AIM AT 2019: Owners will choose between Indianapolis, New Orleans and Minneapolis to host the 2018 Super Bowl at their May meeting, but interest is already building for the 2019 game, as well. Atlanta, where a new stadium will be built, plans to throw its hat into the ring. Miami also is expected if Dolphins owner Stephen Ross is successful in reaching a funding deal for renovating SunLife Stadium. And one, if not both, of the losing bidders for the 2018 game could get back into the mix for 2019, too.

The 2019 game host will be chosen at the May 2015 owners meeting.

REDSKINS START FOUNDATION: The Washington Redskins, long under attack for its nickname, unveiled a foundation here designed to help tribes. The head of the foundation, Gary Edwards, a former U.S. Secret Service official and a Native American, met with owners at the meeting and sat for interviews with reporters. He emphatically said during his comments that the team name is not a slur.

Whatever the case — and the new foundation clearly won’t fully quell opposition to the nickname — the newly established Washington Redskins Original American Foundation will fund projects on reservations. Edwards would not say how much funding the foundation is starting with but said that once the first tax return is filed, that information would become public.

Supovitz: Towed off

WHERE’S MY CAR?: The Super Bowl postgame transportation mess is by now a well-told story, with New Jersey Transit unable to keep up with demand for trains to and from MetLife Stadium. But there was another transit mishap that day that was not widely reported. Frank Supovitz, the league’s senior vice president of events, departed the stadium at about 1:30 in the morning, after ensuring the last fan had left the facility. He went to the parking lot — only to find that his car was gone.

Supovitz called security and discovered that a company hired by the NFL had earlier that day towed all cars in his parking area to the other side of the stadium, to make room for incoming buses. Supovitz obviously was none too happy that no one had told him when he parked that there might be a problem. He declined to give the name of the transport company, but it’s safe to presume that the company has been informed about what happened.

TAKING A GLOBAL VIEW: Despite some published reports last week that the NFL was discussing a fourth London game for 2015, Chris Parsons, the league’s senior vice president of international, said such talk was not accurate. Instead, the league’s international committee will meet next month to begin those discussions, and if there were to be an expansion of the London slate, owners would vote on it in October.

The three London games for 2014 are sold out. Asked what the best market outside of the U.K. is for the NFL, Parsons did not hesitate with his reply: Mexico. But don’t expect a game there any time soon. Not only is the NFL putting its eggs in the U.K. basket, but Mexico also has aging facilities that do not meet the NFL’s stadium requirements, Parsons said.

EXTRA POINTS: Word at the meeting was that the Mara and McCaskey families had four generations of family members at the meeting hotel, the Ritz-Carlton Orlando Grande Lakes. The Maras co-own the Giants; the McCaskeys own the Bears. Many team owners and executives use the annual meeting as de facto family vacation. Additionally, the night before the meeting ends, each team owner typically goes out to dinner with the club’s staff. That is one of the reasons the meeting does not end early, even though there was less than an hour of business to discuss on Wednesday morning. … Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank’s arm is in a sling after recent shoulder surgery. … Next year’s annual meeting will be at the Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix, which hosted the event last year.


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