NFL Blackouts And The NFL In-Game Experience

July 2nd, 2012

“Big Nasty” will always be at Bucs games. But throughout the NFL, more fans enjoy watching games from home. The NFL is combating that trend with new bells and whistles this season.

Joe was killing time at Lambert Field in St. Louis, waiting to catch his flight back to Tampa Saturday afternoon, when he came across the Wall Street Journal story about how the NFL was going to relax blackout restrictions.

Locally, just about every Bucs fan jumped on the angle of “less blackouts.” We will see. Per reports, NFL teams must sell 85 percent of tickets as opposed to 100 percent.

It has been Joe’s contention that one reason blackouts have spiked (and ticket sales slumped) throughout the NFL is because going to NFL games is less and less a good investment and staying at home watching multiple games, including the Red Zone Channel, with access to replays (and watching them multiple times with your DVR), all with HD quality flatscreens, and access to cheaper and more plentiful beer and food have made staying at home a far better experience.

Kevin Clark, who wrote the Wall Street Journal piece, types this evidence is too obvious, and NFL teams are thinking of different tricks to get fans to drop cash to attend games.

The league also is planning to introduce wireless Internet in every stadium and to create smartphone apps that could let fans listen to players wearing microphones on the field.

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.”

Grubman is right.

While waiting for Joe’s plane Saturday, Joe was sitting with five random professionals ranging in ages from 25-50 from various walks of life from different corners of the country, Boston, Denver, Dallas, Houston. All claimed to be rabid football fans.

None of them said they would ever drop a dime on season tickets in their neck of the woods for many of the same reasons listed above. One gent from Dallas had an interesting point.

“When I buy a ticket, I buy a ticket for a seat, not a speck of concrete to stand on for four hours or waste an afternoon staring at the back of some clown’s Tony Romo jersey.”

Joe was a former Bucs season ticket holder and got rid of his season tickets years ago for several reasons. Joe would hope the Tampa Sports Authority do a few upgrades to the stadium on Dale Mabry Highway to make it more fan-friendly.

1) Bud Zone: Joe believes, though he hates the Jags, that the Gator Bowl is the most underrated NFL experience in the league. Aside from boat access to games from watering holes, there is shaded tailgating with concrete parking lots.

Now Joe knows that putting up overpasses near the stadium to give tailgaters shade isn’t going to happen. But how about paving those dust-choking parking lots. Who the hell wants to eat food, much less drink beer, when ever time you open your mouth you are eating dust. It’s damned near an environmental hazard, especially for parking attendants.

If those lots cannot be paved, at least hose the damn fields down the night before.

Also, the Gator Bowl has the infamous “Bud Zone,” a sports bar above an end zone where fans can escape the heat (or rain) and get in air conditioning while watching both a game on TV, as well as the game just below them.

2) Free water: While in Illinois, Joe was reunited with the brutal three-digit temperature, roasting Midwestern summers. On Saturday with temperatures at 105, the St. Louis Cardinals were playing a mid-afternoon game. The team offered free “complimentary” water stations throughout the stadium, partially to help the 37,000+ fans avoid a heat stroke.

(Strangely, no whining about needing a domed stadium from the locals.)

Joe knows day games in Tampa early in the season can be awfully oppressing as well. Why not take a page from the Cardinals and hand out some water, not just the few drinking fountains around the stadium? The Cardinals also employed “misting stations,” which are not unlike what NFL teams have on sidelines for players, a fine, air-conditioned mist being blown in the air. Joe has been through one of these before, and trust Joe, it’s an instant 20-degree chill down, if not more.

3) Better replay boards with more replays: Dallas has massive HD screens for fans. The Titans are installing the same kind. Currently, the Bucs’ scoreboards pale in comparison. Upgrade those to giant HD screens and show more replays, not just of the Bucs game but other contests (via Red Zone Channel) during breaks in the play.

Joe’s going to guess fans would rather see out-of-town highlights as opposed to Captain Fear during timeouts. There can always be time set aside for commercial videos from sponsors.

Of course, all this is moot if fans have smartphones and free WiFi.

Joe loves the idea of WiFi for all. With that, and your NFL Sunday Ticket app, or even just your app (which includes a live feed of the Red Zone Channel), highlights are at your fingertips from around the league.

The idea of having special apps for season ticket holders where they can have access to audio from coaches and select players is a bulls-eye, not unlike what NASCAR does with its driver teams.

Though Joe would still prefer soaking up NFL games on the leather couch with his cold beer in air conditioning, there are many ways both the NFL and the Bucs can upgrade the fan experience at games (and thereby increase ticket sales).

It’s good to see the fine folks of the NFL are seeing the light.

Besides, without these bells and whistles, getting a sellout at Bucs home games will just be that much more difficult.

28 Responses to “NFL Blackouts And The NFL In-Game Experience”

  1. flmike Says:

    I go to one game a season, just to remind myself why I don’t buy season tickets.

  2. espo Says:

    I hope every game is blacked out so you fake fans continue to miss out. Thanks for the elbow room.

  3. Sgt Mike Says:

    I am happy to announce that I have just signed up for Direct with the NFL ticket. Seems my PCS to Ft Carson has unchained me from stupid Verizon that required me to get Al Jazeera in order to get the man channel. See you on Buc Sundays. Stoked! Go Bucs!

  4. Joe Says:

    Sgt. Mike:

    First, thanks for your service.

    Second, if you are like Joe, a day doesn’t pass without watching the Man Channel. Joe is simply addicted to it.

  5. OB Says:

    Joe, the game I went to last year was the Atlanta one. The commercials and music were too loud and not to my liking. Not one replay of any penalty play was shown, nor did they tell you when or what was going to be shown. I had club level seats so I could go in and see more of the game on TV. Watching TV, no one stands up suddenly in front of me so I miss the play.

    I doubt that I would ever go again. If the NFL was smart, instead of blacking out the games, charge $5.00 to watch them on TV, just think of how many takers there would be.

  6. jb Says:

    Most of us that have been there for EVERY game since the very beginning haven’t felt the need to get painted up with the whole, “Look at Me, I’m the Number One Fan” routine. I wonder if those that get painted up and try and draw attention to themselves were around in 1976 when we suffered through 0-26 like myself and a few other were? Funny I sure as heck never saw Big Nasty and that bunch back then!

  7. Eastsidebuc Says:

    Personally, I bought season tix because of the blackouts… NOBODY will stop me from watching the bucs!!! Our rep was saying something about the bucs upgrading their scoreboard if I’m not mistaking. WIFI will be available in the stadium next season.

  8. espo Says:

    I think the Nasty crew started dressing up when we lost the lame uniforms. I’m sure he was around before then. I gained a lot of respect for the man when I saw him in ATL last year, supporting a team sure to lose.

    For those of you whining about someone standing in front of you when there’s a big play, why don’t you stand up also? Its a sporting event, not a dance recital.

  9. Eric Says:

    Our stadium and “experience” is just fine. Excellent place to watch a game.

    Even in light of that getting people to shell out money to watch a raheem Morris fiasco is a huge marketing challenge, plus management insulting everyone with the fools gold crap.

    Let’s hope schiano can get some good football going. Do that and they will come.

  10. Dini's Biceps Says:

    I’ll pay $5.99 on pay per view <—- all day long

  11. Chris@Apple Roof Cleaning Says:

    The Tampa economy has a lot to do with it.
    Though my business is not hurt as much as some are (people living in deed restricted communities have to get their roofs cleaned), many people in Tampa are hurting financially.

    By the way Joe, that was a very well written article you guys wrote!

  12. Miguel Grande Says:

    @Sgt Mike I just signed up for Direct TV in Oregon, paid for the MLB package, only to find out that they still black out games. Why on Earth would they black out games 3200 miles away? I’m not going to hop on a jet and fly in for a ball game because it’s not on TV. Not only do they black out the home feed but the visitor’s feed as well.

    I’m sure if you check the fine print on your NFL Package, which is free the 1st year, you’ll find out you’re no better off than if you were at MacDill.

    @OB “If the NFL was smart, instead of blacking out the games, charge $5.00 to watch them on TV, just think of how many takers there would be.”

    I believe you’re right, except that that figure will be $50.

    The problem is, like newspapers, they lost the youth of this country. My son is 20 years old and he couldn’t name a single Buc player on a bet.

    The older fans will die off or be priced out of the game. An XBox game is a lot more convenient, economical and exciting than going to CITS on a Sunday afternoon, getting financially raped, felt up by Homeland Security and bored into a coma by Olsen and Morris.

    When I was young (1979), I would purchase 20 yard line seats, 5 rows up for $88 a season. I would buy 4 and treat my friends. I could easily buy these from one paycheck and not have to make any sacrifices or choices. We could name every player. I used to call these cheerleader seats because they would rotate the girls every quarter just for me and my friends. My girlfriend never caught on and now she’s my wife.

    I’m sure no one in my family would even go to a game with me today, if I paid for everything. My family is also highly offended by the militarism of the NFL, with the fly overs and such.

  13. Bucdog Says:

    Bucs have already announced new HD scoreboards for next year!

  14. mark Says:

    Where in Illinois did you go Joe?

    I’m originally from Central Illinois, Peoria actually, and there are plenty of Card Fans there…..Cub and White Sox as well.

    As a matter of fact, when I was growing up, the White Sox had offensive production just about like the Rays….1-0, 2-0, 2-1, 3-1. Pete Ward, Moose Skowron, Joe Horlen and crew played for the Sox, while the Cubs had Banks and Cards had Gibson. The Zobrist family had quite a few good ball players aroung Metamora and Eureka. I don’t remember the Sox striking out as much as BJ and company, even with the old mound, but every game was like some Zen exercise to develop patience.

  15. crazy Says:

    The NFL doesn’t get the fact that a televised game is a 3 hour commercial. Trying to force fans to go to games thru a blackout rule just cancels 3 hours of advertising. The more games the NFL takes off the air the more fans they lose. Period.

  16. aj Says:

    It is about price, plain and simple. The cost of going to the game is just not worth it, especially when you figure in parking and concessions. I can buy a years worth of NFL Sunday Ticket for the price of going to one game.

    If the NFL stopped trying to suck every single penny out of people, that is the problem. There’s a difference between making a good profit and turning people off because you want to make the best profit ever.

    What people don’t realize with Sunday Ticket, the NFL will destroy it if it is ever taken from DirecTV. The only reason it is affordable is becasue DirecTV takes a loss on it to gain subscribers. If it was NFL controlled, it would be $7,000 a year.

    And then people would be complaining the home knitting experience has gotten better while the NFL hasn’t.

  17. bucfever40 Says:

    I say the construct those air conditioned sprinklers overhead, so that everybody gets cooled off, hell even the Rays were talking about that opened air stadium with air-conditioned ducts I believe located under the seating arrangements all flowing in a circular motion, my point is there are ways to offset the brutal oven that is on display in August and September, that is the MAIN reason I can only go to a few games a year period.

  18. bucfever40 Says:

    JB, I’m with you, nothing against big nasty, he’s started his wrestler image back in 97, and I’m sure he loves the idea of getting to sign autographs, I’m sure that does wonders for the ego, but there are MANY fans like myself who HAVE been there from the first game on who don’t wish to do something like that, now you’re seeing different people coming up with these nicknames and trying hard to market themselves as the biggest fans because of painting their faces, I think it says a lot about the individual who feels the need for that kind of attention, just my opinion…..the weird thing is I high five all those guys because there is a part of me in them, just not the ego side.

  19. Buc Me in the Goat Azz Says:

    I wonder what bandwidth would be required to transmitt Wi-Fi to 55,000 fans???

  20. BigMacAttack Says:

    Hey Sgt Mike,

    Did you guys get any of the damage from the fire at the base there? I used to live a few miles from there in the early 90’s. I love Colorado Springs, great place, close to rock climbing and the mountains. I climbed the 3 Apostles, Mt Harvard & Yale some years ago, before I joined the Marines. Thanks Bro, appreciate what you do for us. Maybe you can catch the Bucs in Denver, week 13. Good Luck.

  21. Rob Holiday Says:

    I agree with aj. It’s all about price and what the market value is. If there are unsold tickets, it means the price is too high for the product being sold.

    Teams should put unsold tickets up for auction a few days before the game. Put a starting price at $5 and a seating chart showing available seats. People can bid on an available seats with a bidding style like ebay. That way all seats are sold, and the team gets the maximum amount for each seat that would otherwise be vacant. Everybody wins.

  22. FearTheFlag Says:

    55,978…that’s how many tickets they need to sell to reach 85% of 65,857 (normal capacity). According to the 4 letter network, TB’s average attendance per home game was just 56,614.

    I would say that we should certainly see less blackouts but unless ownership buys up some remaining tix (which is very possible if we’re only 1K-2K shy)
    we’ll likely still see one or more blacked out games…

    With any luck, the Freeman, Jackson, Blount, Martin Show will stay exciting enough to put some butts in those seats!

  23. Miguel Grande Says:

    With the 85% rule the teams will be able to fudge the numbers easily. That will mean no more blackouts unless the Glazers want to be pricks. There’s no way I could attend unless I was in town for business.

  24. Buc the saints Says:

    I usually go to two games a year. I want to see a replay of every single play. I do not want to see the freaking coke zero vs sprite boat race or people kissing in the crowd. If Blount gets blown up in the back field I want to know who missed the block. I see more of the game at home than I do at the stadium even on a pirated feed. That’s why I will not by season tix.

  25. Morgan Says:

    Season ticket holder from 2009 to 2012. Won’t be doing that anymore now that most of the home games will most likely be broadcasted.

    BTW, nice job on 1010 today, Steve.

  26. Joe Says:


    Won’t be doing that anymore now that most of the home games will most likely be broadcasted.

    As Joe explained today, no one knows this will be the case because the NFL nor the Bucs have specified the criteria for avoiding a blackout.

  27. BigMacAttack Says:

    Club seats and suites don’t count against the tally, Yes???

    I heard they also no longer have to pay the 34 cents on the dollar for the unsold seats. It sounds as if they have found a way to end the atrocities, especially with a 100% public funded stadium in Tampa.

    I just enjoy going to the games. It is what it is.

  28. Wade Says:

    People are losing interest in professional sports. The media will try to convince you differently because of the dependence on advertising dollars. The media is one big propaganda machine. The easy access of information via the internet has exposed professional sports and the greediness of athletes and owners. In some respects, the financial depression has been a good thing because it has made people realize what is important in life and wasting hard earned money on pampered-spoiled millionaires is not important.