View Full Version : Mellinger | NFL fans increasingly stay home

11-20-2010, 03:38 AM
An interesting write-up I came across.


Thousands of you would like to go to the Chiefs’ game on Sunday, and why not? Should be a beautiful day, the team is still leading the AFC West, and the renovations to Arrowhead Stadium are fresh.

The Chiefs have thousands of tickets remaining for you. You can get in the game for as little as $25, or pay upward of $200 for more of a rock-star experience. They are offering more food options, wider concourses and promises of better fan service.

So there’s supply and there’s demand, Economics 101, but for the fourth consecutive game Arrowhead will have thousands of empty seats. This is a growing problem for the Chiefs — to some, a more pressing issue even than two straight losses. They’re in the midst of a standoff with you, the fan.

“People are waiting to see,” Chiefs chief operating officer Mark Donovan says in a rare interview. “I think there’s a lot of pent-up money out there, and I’m hoping it will be released. We think we have a valuable product on and off the field, and that (the money) will be released.”

Maybe. But old models can no longer be used here. We’re in the middle of a new golden age of sports fandom, and as incredible technology and cheaper high-definition TVs push the best game-day experience away from stadiums and into basements, we have to recognize the unintended consequence.

This is a real issue when the Chiefs have a “new” stadium, an improved team and loyal fans that make local broadcast rights the envy of the NFL — and are still playing to thousands of empty seats.

Kansas City is the NFL’s best example of a growing trend that’s amplified by a bad economy, but won’t ever allow the in-stadium experience to return to what it was before the recession. Arrowhead’s magic is gone, Kansas City’s identity drifting away from parking lot tailgates, and we’re never going back.

The Chiefs can’t fix this, because more than any other sports league, the NFL treats its stadiums like TV studios and its games like programming. Financially, this makes sense because the NFL gets much more of its revenue from television than ticket sales.

Fans can enjoy a cheaper and better experience, and teams continue to cash bigger checks. This is good for everyone, just as long as we accept what we’re losing in the process.

“The entertainment value is the same whether I’m at home or watching in the stadium,” says Ethan Weiner, a Chiefs fan from Lee’s Summit. “So why would I pay $700 to take my family when I have the Sunday Ticket at home?”

• • •

The Chiefs are keeping a hopeful face. They point to so-called trailing indicators like increased merchandise sales, website traffic and monster TV numbers — 70 shares for some games — that Arrowhead will be filling up.

We caught a glimpse of the old magic in the season opener, the Monday night game against the Chargers. Arrowhead rocked like old times, the Chargers took some penalties clearly caused by the crowd noise, Philip Rivers cursed at his linemen, and fans had the best Kansas City football experience in years.

“You could not do that in your living room,” Donovan says. “I don’t care how many HDTVs you have.”

He’s right, but the problem is replicating it, which the Chiefs haven’t been able to do. They can rationalize by pointing to an unattractive schedule — 49ers, Jaguars, Bills and now the Cardinals — but they also know that the season’s first half is always easier to sell than the second half.

The undeniable truth is that the Chiefs are banging their heads into a wall. They lowered prices about 7 percent in the last three years, greatly increased the number of affordable ($30 and below) tickets, put a new emphasis on customer service, and still, thousands of empty seats for every home game since that Monday night.

What more proof do you need that a better and cheaper experience at home is cutting into ticket sales?

Attendance is down across the NFL and has been for a few years. But Kansas City is not Tampa Bay or Jacksonville or Detroit, where local interest is iffy. Most team presidents would give their left tackle to have the Chiefs’ TV ratings and merchandise sales.

Kansas City’s is a different problem. The Chiefs are “stuck,” helpless to get an incredible demand for their product to line up with a growing supply of unused tickets. Helpless, because this is how the league positions itself in the new golden age of sports.

We have to wait to see what the long-term consequences will be.

• • •

Here’s the thing: While NFL attendance has dipped in each of the last few years, its revenue has climbed, to a record $8 billion last year. If the NFL cares about empty seats, it’s only as nostalgia or ego, because it’s doing nothing to their bottom line.

The only way the Chiefs or any other team will take drastic steps to fill seats is if it makes financial sense. Playing in front of half-empty stadiums would be just fine as long as TV and other revenue continue to rise.

In other words, empty seats aren’t an issue unless the eyesore makes the broadcasts less popular.

Lucky for the NFL, fans are too smart for that.

“On the surface you think, ‘Gee, if they’re not showing up, why am I tuning in?’” says David Carter, executive director of the USC Sports Business Institute. “But I think sports fans get it. They understand. They think, ‘Oh yeah, I’ve got the Red Zone channel,’ or, ‘I’ve got all this other stuff that makes watching from home so much better.’ I think inherently, they understand.”

The consequence is a fascinating test case that you’ll hear more about going forward, especially if the economy recovers and stadiums don’t fill back up to pre-recession levels.

What we’re left with is the NFL seeing whether this golden age of being a stay-at-home sports fan has a tipping point. Part of what we all love is the atmosphere, whether we’re part of it in the stadium or enjoying how it looks and sounds on TV.

As it becomes more about fans on leather couches and less about those in plastic seats — this game is played in front of a live studio audience — the NFL changes what’s attractive and valuable about its product.

We’re in the beginning stages of this change. It will catch on more with other sports and leagues soon, and five years from now, we’ll be better off for it.

It’s just that right now, we need to recognize and accept what we’ll lose in the process.

SOURCE (http://www.kansascity.com/2010/11/18/2450684/as-nfls-at-home-appeal-grows-its.html)

11-20-2010, 04:35 PM
Hard to sell tickets when a team doesn't even give a good show.

Connie Jo
11-21-2010, 01:09 AM
There is no comparison to being at Arrowhead for a game and at home watching...doesn't matter how advanced TV technology is, it will never be the same as being there.

The tailgating at Arrowhead appears alive and well from what I've seen.

I think the problem is a combination of the Chiefs not having winning seasons...and the cost to attend a game, that keeps most at home. I think many fans lost their enthusiasm after too many losing seasons.

A $25 ticket is upper level Season Ticket price, $22 parking on top of that. You can't take food or drink inside, you're inside for at least 3 hours, you're gonna get thirsty, especially with all the hollering that occurs. A soft drink is $5.00, a beer $8.00, a hot dog $5.00, etc....the food & drink prices are ridiculous for what you get in return. I guestimate the average cost to attend a game per person is near $100.00...including ticket, food & drink. It would cost me at least $500 for tickets, parking, food & drink if I was to take my 4 grandkids to a Chiefs game. :(