The NFL clearly rules the sports world, and this offseason the league has made some under-the-radar changes to make things better for the fans at home as well as those that attend the games.
In a report from the Wall Street Journal’s Kevin Clark, the league plans on making changes to the controversial blackout rule that required a game to be sold out before it was broadcast on a network. Starting in the 2012 season, the league will mandate 85% of the game tickets to be sold rather than 100% of tickets, making the game more accessible to those that can’t afford tickets in their local markets.
The league has also planned changes to the in-game experience. It wants to add Wifi to each stadium, and offer downloadable smartphone applications that will give fans access to in game audio so they can listen to the play-by-play call from their teams radio network, as well as audio from players on the field wearing microphones. Each stadium will also have new monitors that will broadcast several angles of an official review, just like the fan at home sees on their TV’s.
Kevin Clark writes:
With declines in ticket sales each of the past five years, average game attendance is down 4.5% since 2007, while broadcast and online viewership is soaring. The NFL is worried that its couch-potato options—both on television and on mobile devices—have become good enough that many fans don’t see the point of attending an actual game.
“The at-home experience has gotten better and cheaper, while the in-stadium experience feels like it hasn’t,” said Eric Grubman, the NFL’s executive vice president of ventures and business operations. “That’s a trend that we’ve got to do something about.”
In hopes that professional football can mimic the wild stadium atmosphere typical of college football games, the NFL says it has “liberalized” its restraints on crowd noise. Stadiums will now be free to rile up crowds with video displays, and public-address announcers will no longer be restrained from inciting racket when the opposing offense faces a crucial third down.
In part, the NFL has done a pretty good job on letting the fans dictate momentum and noise, but what they say is true. The PA announcers and video monitors aren’t used the same as they are in the NBA. I’ve been to NBA games where the PA guy is screaming, the mascot is pumped and there are digital displays to “get loud” – something the NFL hasn’t offered. Until now.
The league also mandated that each stadium have the NFL’s “Red Zone” channel broadcasting in the stadiums to give the fans a look around the league while they’re attending a game.
While features like Wifi will be free, there may be small fees on other features like the in-game audio. Up to this point, only the broadcasting network and NFL Films were allowed to place microphones on players. Now the team itself will get to pick who has microphones in-game for fans to stream. The audio will be raw and untouched. Straight from the horses mouth, if you will, to allow the fan to hear each and every aspect of what takes place on the field.
These changes will be good for the league, and it’s been a long time coming. I hope they follow through with it all, as it will only expand the popularity of the game.
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OCNN Sports Columnist – Justin Arbogast @NFLGuy_SK