In-game locker room video still rare around NFL
Editor’s note: This story is revised from the print edition.
Thirty of the NFL’s 32 teams are not showing in their stadiums footage from the league-mandated locker room cameras during halftime or at any other points during the game, according to a SportsBusiness Journal survey of the clubs.
The league this year for the first time required the cameras’ installation to improve the stadium experience for fans. Except for the Seattle Seahawks and St. Louis Rams, the teams are roughly split between using the footage during pregame, or not at all. And only the Rams’ locker room images show players huddling around the head coach at halftime, one of the seminal scenes from the inner sanctum the cameras could make available.
“We don’t believe in using our best content at halftime,” Seth Rabinowitz, the New York Jets’ senior vice president, marketing and fan engagement, said before a recent home game.
The New England Patriots’ Jen Ferron, senior vice president of marketing and brand development, offered a similar rationale for the team’s decision not to show locker room footage at halftime, saying fans needed a break at that time.
Other clubs cited the logistical difficulty of editing anything usable while the game was still live. Some clubs tape footage in the morning and then show it hours later during pregame. It’s no secret that many players and head coaches are not thrilled with the cameras, which is the principal reason the NFL competition committee voted not to mandate the cameras’ use. Even the Rams said the decision to show halftime images is a game-to-game decision.
A league spokesman said that the NFL mandated only the installation of the cameras, not how or if they would be used.
So far, most teams are taking advantage of the absence of any formal instructions on how to use the footage. Fifteen teams incorporate the film into pregame footage shown in-stadium, while the remaining 15 do not use it at all. Five of those indicated they might use the footage in the future (see chart).
“We are using live video in stadium without audio and repurposing some edited locker room footage with audio on KCChiefs.com,” wrote Chiefs President Mark Donovan in an email, outlining one of the more common pregame uses of the content. “Fan response has been positive, especially in stadium as we have incorporated the live camera into our player entrance.”
For several years the NFL has been striving to liven up the in-game experience for fans to counter the appeal of staying at home and watching on advanced home entertainment systems. Replays are now mandated in-stadium this season, and many teams simply show the game continuously on the video boards.
The league, though, wants to add in-stadium features, unlike replay, that are not available at home. Some of the mobile team apps offer replay angles and video available only in-stadium, and the locker room cameras were expected to give fans another reason to buy a ticket.
So far, at least, teams are not wildly embracing the opportunity. None of them use audio from the locker room, and there is even one team, the San Diego Chargers, that has yet to install the cameras. Many clubs’ pregame use is simply limited to tunnel shots, showing the players heading up a tunnel to the field, a feature that several teams have used for years, including the Dallas Cowboys.
Part of the explanation for the apparent baby steps is the hesitation surrounding a new initiative. Sources close to the league note, though, that teams have long been wary of league business initiatives intruding into anything touching the game, and that could explain some of the reluctance to fully utilize the cameras.
For the Patriots, the club uses live pregame locker room footage about 20 minutes before kickoff. The thinking in New England, Ferron said, is to use only live footage, so that rules out other times other than halftime, which the club already has decided should be downtime for the fans.