Owners extend suspension of blackout rule
The NFL last year provisionally dropped the controversial rule, which blacked out locally games that were not sold out. The one-year suspension had expired, so the league needed to act.
Asked why the NFL would not just drop the blackout policy entirely, Commissioner Roger Goodell said the league wanted more than one year under its belt to make that decision, but he also noted blackouts were rare, or nonexistent, in the last years the policy was in use. There were no blackouts in 2014. In 2013, there were only two. Results for 2015 likely would have been similar: none, or very few, of the league’s 256 regular-season games being blacked out.
■ VIEW OF THE FUTURE: Virtual reality is the hot technology in sports, and the NFL is beginning to experiment with the devices. Last year was a test year for the league, collecting footage that was shown to users at the NFL Experience at the Super Bowl in Santa Clara, Calif.
|Eagles President Dan Smolenski tests a VR headset during a demonstration Tuesday.
The league’s plans for 2016 are still developing. It’s an initiative being driven at the league level, not by individual teams.
The league also is eying augmented reality, which allows for a quasi-VR experience while continuing to be able to see your current surroundings. That compares to using a VR headset, which puts the user in the middle of the action, but that person then cannot see his or her actual physical environment.
■ TRACKING EXCITEMENT: The NFL plans to roll out a new consumer research effort this season that will collect fans’ biometrics to gauge their reactions and track what they are looking at. The NFL is working with MediaScience, which conducted a test of the program at the Pro Bowl. Twelve fans there wore biometric bracelets, patches and glasses that captured where they gazed. About 200 fans also did so from home watching the game on TV.
The preliminary data showed that fans’ reactions split not by gender but age, said Julie Perlish, the NFL’s vice president of consumer insights and research. She had a display of the devices at the annual meeting.
Fans aren’t the only ones who will use biometrics this year. The San Francisco 49ers, under new coach Chip Kelly, plan to use biometric patches to take readings from players’ sweat. The 49ers become the first team in the NFL to do this and are using patches from Kenzen, a Silicon Valley company that won a $50,000 grant from the NFL at the Super Bowl last month as part of the league’s “Shark Tank”-like technology competition, 1st and Future.
“The people in San Francisco had already been dealing with them for a long time. I just kind of got on board at the last part of this,” Kelly said. “It’s a training staff and strength coach deal.”
The NFL may say it wants to play a game in China in 2018 — and the Los Angeles Rams were touted last week as a likely target for such a trip — but many hurdles remain. There’s a substantial time-zone difference (Beijing is 12 hours ahead of New York), the fan base for football in the country is modest, and culturally, even the largest American companies have found the nation difficult to navigate. “It was put out there, and obviously it is generating a lot of contrasting opinions,” said New York Giants co-owner Steve Tisch. “Between length of travel, time difference, the cultural challenge — at every level, it would be very challenging.” The idea is strongly championed by Goodell, though, who sources said has rebuffed those who mentioned the issues in staging a game there. If the league does go, the NFL might open its season there to reduce the stress on the two teams making the trip. …