In an article written by Kevin Clark on the Wall Street Journal website, the National Football League has announced some interesting changes for the 2012 season. First, the league will soften its stance on local “blackout” restrictions. Owners have agreed to drop the blackout level to 85% of capacity. The new rule will allow teams to set their own benchmarks as long as it is 85% or higher. To combat teams from setting the blackout levels low, the NFL will ask teams exceeding the mark set to share more of the revenues. Blackouts are a rare occurrence; the 2011 campaign only saw 16 games blacked out locally. Teams and their sponsors usually bought any remaining tickets to allow the games to be shown on television.
The NFL seems to be very concerned about attendance at games dropping as people opt to stay home to watch from the comfort of their own living rooms. According to the article, attendance at NFL stadiums is down 4.5% since 2007. The article claims a few teams have exhausted their season ticket waiting lists. 20 of the 32 NFL Clubs have season tickets available for the upcoming season. One team mentioned, the Indianapolis Colts, had a 16,000 person waiting list as of 2010. They currently have around 2,000 season tickets available for the upcoming season. Obviously losing Peyton Manning and the poor showing in 2011 did have an effect on Colts ticket sales.
The NFL will be trying some new ideas to enhance the atmosphere at the stadium. Some of the measures the NFL are implementing to enhance the in-stadium experience are free Wi-Fi, relaxing some of the restraints on manufactured crowd noise, allowing fans access to the same replays as referees during a video review and mandating all stadiums have access to the NFL Red Zone channel. Another app is in the works that would allow fans to hear on field commentary from certain players.
Will these new features have the desired effect? It remains to be seen. As the cost of attending a sporting event continues to rise, all leagues will have to do something to curb the appeal of fans staying at home to watch on their HD televisions.