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Volume 24 No. 157
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NFL Bounty Punishments A Hot Topic Even On Media-Focused Panel

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s unprecedented suspension of Saints coach Sean Payton was all the buzz during Thursday morning’s first session of SBJ/SBD's IMG World Congress of Sports. The panel featured Bedrocket Media Ventures Founder & CEO Brian Bedol, NFL Network President & CEO Steve Bornstein, Dick Clark Productions CEO Mark Shapiro, Pac-12 Enterprises President Gary Stevenson and IMG College President Ben Sutton. Bornstein said Goodell is sending a message that “this kind of behavior is not going to be tolerated. But the more interesting point to me is that it really is on the cover of every newspaper in the country today, and that, to me, speaks more to the impact of sports in our society today, and that people really care.” Bedol: “I think clearly they were sending a message, but I don’t think it’s the first time that it’s gone on.” Stevenson: “I admire the commissioner because he recognizes the role models these players are, and you have to send a message to a high school football player that this kind of behavior is not acceptable.” Shapiro: “Anybody who didn’t see this coming is living in a cave somewhere. ... He’s been very tough on penalties. He’s been very tough on enforcement. He’s been very tough on discipline. So this was going to come down. ... Sending this message that we’re not going to tolerate that, we’re going to play inside the rules, was the right thing to do and it was warranted.”

EXPERIENCE MATTERS: With the breaking news out of the way, the discussion turned to the evolving relationship between the media and fans and how the in-home experience is cutting into attendance. “I do think the product is great and some people make a choice to watch it at home,” Stevenson said. “In some cases, attendance is down, but I happen to think it has more to do with the in-game experience when you go to the stadium. If you go into a college dorm room today and you watch a group of students watch an NFL Sunday or a Pac-12 Saturday, they’re not just watching it on one screen, they’re watching it on a number of screens, and they want to interact with friends and they want to share the experience. If you go to a stadium and you can’t have that experience you get frustrated. So our view is that some of the stadium infrastructure needs to change a little bit so that the fan experience, when you go to the stadium, is better.” Shapiro: “There is no price you can put on being there. There’s nothing like being there. On the flip side, yes, the game is great, but at the same time, ticket prices are high. So now you’re at home as a sports fan, you’ve got these high ticket prices, you’ve got a tough economy and you have a great in-home experience. Now being there has to take a back seat.” Bornstein: “I think we actually blew it as an industry. We make the experience so good, so clean, that we shot ourselves in the foot.” Stevenson said, “I don’t think the answer to improving attendance is increasing the price of the out-of-stadium experience. It’s incumbent upon the teams to increase the experience within the stadium and to give people something that’s worth paying for that $30, $40, $50 ticket, that they can’t get at home.” Sutton: “We’ve got to enhance the fan experience. When they come in the gate, they’ve got to feel like they’ve gotten real value. We’re not doing enough, in my estimation, that when people come through the gate we’re depending on tradition too much. I think you’ll see, at least in college sports, over the next 10 years some really radical changes in that regard.”

Stevenson watching to see if companies like
Google, Yahoo start investing in sports

WHAT'S NEXT: The panelists were asked to comment on the big story to watch over the next year. Bedol: “Will one of these new platforms write a big check and use sports as Fox and DirecTV did to really break into the mass audience business?” Bornstein: “Are these virtual competitors out there real? Is Google or Yahoo going to make the leap and try to be entertainment to the consumer and into the home?” Shapiro: “They’re coming, there’s no question about that and they’ve got the pockets to do it. They’ve got to get the technology, and at the end of the day they’ve got to get the content.” Stevenson: “I’ll echo that. Will the big technology companies make the investment and really want to be a player in this industry? I think they do.” Sutton: “Just to pick something different, Will there be a national championship in college football?”

NEW DIMENSIONS: The panelists also weighed in on the future of 3-D. Bornstein: “I think that experience is going to happen. I don’t think it’s going to happen nearly as quickly as people thought 18 months ago. I think it will actually make it theatrically first, and when that experience is refined it will ultimately end up in the home. But I think the horizon line is pretty far.” Shapiro said, “You have to get past the glasses. The technology is there and it’s going to come out, but it’s never going to catch on as long as you have to wear glasses in your own home.”