NFL Doesn't Get It: Blocking Fans Doesn't Make Them Like Teams Any More

from the this-is-still-happening? dept

I knew this was common years ago, but I honestly had no clue that modern sports leagues were so clueless as to think that it made sense to blackout local TV broadcasting if the attendance at the event wasn’t a sell-out. Those rules were from a time (apparently still existing for some) where people actually thought that being able to see a game on TV would mean fewer people coming out to the actual game. Of course, as any sports fan knows, there’s a massive difference between watching on TV and “being there.” But allowing fans to watch their favorite team on TV does seem to encourage fans to care more about their team, making it more likely that they’ll go out and see the team live when they can. But… not according to the NFL, who still has such blackout rules in effect, and is suddenly worried that attendance this season is dropping (thanks Carlo) due to the economy, meaning that many more games won’t be shown to local fans. It’s difficult to see how that makes any sense at all. All it does is piss off the biggest fans, and give them reasons not to pay attention to the team, and to cut out the most compelling local TV for many fans (harming ad revenue). On top of that, you risk a sort of death spiral. Teams that don’t get enough fans at the live event piss off their fans who can’t watch the games on TV — and without the games on TV, they’re less interested in following the team… leading to less interest in going to the game… leading to more empty seats… leading to even fewer games getting on TV.

Filed Under: , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “NFL Doesn't Get It: Blocking Fans Doesn't Make Them Like Teams Any More”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
46 Comments
Ima Fish (profile) says:

you risk a sort of death spiral. Teams that don’t get enough fans at the live event piss off their fans….

That’s pretty easy to fix. I’m from Detroit Lions territory. Needless to say in last year’s awful season (16 straight losses, worst season ever in the NFL!) people stopped going to the stadium to seem them.

It got so bad that the team dropped the black-out rule. So even though nobody was going to see the games at the stadium, we could still sit in our homes and watch them lose.

Still, I totally agree that the entire premise of the black-out rule is asinine. To me it would be like a musical act refusing to allow their music to be played on the radio until their concert sells out. But that’s essentially what the NFL are doing.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Wait, the NFL rule isn't set in stone?

Are you saying that the team gets to decide when the black-out rule can be dropped/waived?

As an aside they mentioned the percentages of games that were locally televised. I’d be interested to see which games stadiums/teams didn’t get televised. For last season, where and when were those nine games did not get televised?

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

A little clarification:

Agreed that the blackout rules are silly in that they decrease overall team revenue, particularly from merchandise (lllllloooooottttttsssss of jerseys), nor do they actually get more people to attend the game. As exhibit A, please see Bill Wirtz Chicago Blackhawks vs. Rocky Wirtz Chicago Blackhawks.

However, one point of contention from a hardcore sports fan to a suspect football fan:

“Of course, as any sports fan knows, there’s a massive difference between watching on TV and “being there.””

Absolutely true, but, as any FOOTBALL fan knows, football is the one sport that might actually be better to watch (for a fan of the sport) on TV rather than at the stadium. Fans of the teams go to the stadium, along with the boozers. Fans of the game AND the team get two 30 packs of Pabst, 3 deep dish pizzas, and a poker game going around the living room table while the Bears pound the packers in the tailpipe.

senshikaze (profile) says:

Re: A little clarification:

As a college football fan, an a semi-serious one, I can say that there is one critical piece missing from the TV experience.
70,000+ other screaming fans who love this game too.
I would never say that it is easier to watch and follow a game live (pretty graphics and useless stats are nice) but the sheer emotion of a live game can’t be beat. I think that soccer (err, “football”) on the other side of the pond has much the same reaction as we have to our football.
I love The Game. Not just the game.

Anonymous Coward says:

Good thing I live in Pittsburgh

It’s highly unlikely the Steelers would ever fail to sell out Heinz Field, so all their home games would still be on TV.

As for some of the other NFL cities (especially ones that have had a couple blackouts in the past few seasons), there may be a lot of home games getting blacked out this season if what the NFL’s home office says is true.

Mike O'Horo (profile) says:

Re: Braves fans

Yes, but those same TV-rooted Braves fans of a classy team led by HOF pitchers Maddox, Glavine and Smoltz, who won their division something like 12 straight years — embarrassed that classy team by having tons of empty seats visible on TV during NLDS and NLCS games. How can a metro area as large and wealthy as ATL not sell out playoff games? Shame.

salescoach (profile) says:

Re: Braves fans

Yes, but those same TV-rooted Braves fans of a classy team led by HOF pitchers Maddox, Glavine and Smoltz, who won their division something like 12 straight years — embarrassed that classy team by having tons of empty seats visible on TV during NLDS and NLCS games. How can a metro area as large and wealthy as ATL not sell out playoff games? Shame.

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: Re: Braves fans

“Yes, but those same TV-rooted Braves fans of a classy team led by HOF pitchers Maddox, Glavine and Smoltz, who won their division something like 12 straight years — embarrassed that classy team by having tons of empty seats visible on TV during NLDS and NLCS games. How can a metro area as large and wealthy as ATL not sell out playoff games? Shame.”

Ludacris was in town.

That is all it took…

random (profile) says:

Re: anonymous coward

“if you have satellite you can watch the game anyway”

I do not have satellite so I will have to take what you say as truth for now. going with that assumption…

Why risk missing the game because you have not bought an expensive programming package from the cable company or subscribed to satellite.

Could this blackout rule be another tactic to encourage the average consumer to buy not only stadium tickets but more service for when they can’t be there in person?

you want a name well for now my name is fred. says:

One false assumption Mike: You are assume the lack of ticket sales is a problem of interest in the product. I would say that for the most part, it is the crappy economy. Even NASCAR, which broadcasts every second of every event and pre-games every race for 2 – 4 hours and postgames it as well has a hard time pushing tickets this year.

TV isn’t the magic solution, people having money in their pockets is. Abolishing blackout rules won’t change the real problem, it won’t suddenly put money in everyone’s pocket.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

I would say that the blackout has little if any effect on ad dollars, as most games are watched majoritly OUT of market. It might have some effects in the local market, but even then, it more to do with butts in the seats than anything.

You miss the important point: If people don’t have money, they ain’t going to the game. Just as importantly, they are immune to advertising at that point, because they don’t have disposable income. So all of the issues turn back to the lack of money in the economy, and nothing else.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

sorry, but the blackouts effect only that market. The games are all broadcast at least regionally if not nationally. The income doesn’t drop dramatically if the game isn’t shown on one network affiliate in the 17th biggest city in the US.

The effects are negligible. if the local market was the only income, perhaps, but that just isn’t the case.

hank says:

Ima -- awesome comment

“To me it would be like a musical act refusing to allow their music to be played on the radio until their concert sells out”

_perfect! it reminds me of HOV lanes, — you can’t actually encourage people via punishment, it has never proven to work. the NFL should realize that american football, auto racing, and several other sports are *much* better enjoyed on TV, yet the overall experience of actually attending an event is different and unique experience, and for every person who “steals” a bleacher seat by watching it on TV, they are actually increasing the value of the entrance ticket, by creating a culture and social experience that TV cannot replace. The nfl has actually been brilliant at this, by branding the sports league as a lifestyle and personal identity trait that is bigger than the sport itself, sure going to a nfl game or a car race sucks, you can never tell whats going on, it’s all a confusing mess, but the social experience outweighs the actual experience, hence there is a value to spending $300 on a ticket as an entrance fee to the cultural and social experience

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Ima -- awesome comment

Sorry, but the music analogy isn’t very good, even in Techdirt terms. Quite simply, the music isn’t the concert. Listening to studio tracks isn’t the enjoyment of the music live, it isn’t the interaction, it isn’t the event.

The football game? In person or on TV, the game is the game. You don’t get just the warmups on TV and only game in person, you get the game no matter what. So the only difference is the atmosphere.

Music isn’t a good parallel here at all.

Skysurfer says:

Re: Ima -- awesome comment

Exactly, locking it down makes it seem more exclusive, creating more desire from individuals to be part of the “club”. I would also attribute much of the NFL’s success to this simple principal. They have kept it accessible while still making it seem exclusive. I don’t like this approach at all, but I do understand how the marketing principal works. You notice how the trend is to watch the game as a group event, as one person/organization pays to view the game and others come to participate. This leads to an interesting social hierarchy that forms due to people competing to host the viewings or fit in with the group.

Anonymous Coward says:

Entitled?

Isn’t the NFL entitled to have guaranteed sell outs no matter what the ticket cost? No matter how many of their players are caught doing any number of antisocial/illegal activities? No matter what restrictions it puts on fans to make being a fan more difficult.

Sell outs are a divine right, and the owners know it down to their bones. Nothing will change because the owners know what they are entitled to. Fortunately, the owners have managed to forget anything to the contrary that they might have learned in basic economics or marketing courses they may have taken in college.

Richard says:

Re: Entitled?

Simple solution,

pass on the unsold tickets to the broadcasters to resell. If the broadcasters show the game they have to pay for the tickets they don’t resell (or if they resell for less than face value then they have to pay for the difference.

The broadcasters will know how the sums work (and they also might be better at selling tickets…)

Vincent Clement says:

Major league sports doesn’t understand most things. I attended a Detroit Tigers game on Sunday. While walking to the gate I heard an announcement that selling tickets for more than face value is illegal. Inside the park, a can of beer was $6.75. That same can costs less than a buck in a store.

So it’s illegal to sell a ticket at more than face value, but it is perfectly fine for the stadium to sell beer at over six times the ‘street’ value.

Anonymous Coward says:

Dear NFL

Dear NFL

If you blackout my team, I won’t watch NFL football.

I went to the teams official website and clicked the link to buy tickets. The cheapest ticket for my home town team is $115. Cheapest. Per ticket. Even if I bring my own food and beverage, when you add in parking you are talking $250 for two people to go to a game. For lousy nosebleed seats? No thanks.

This is why I stay home and watch. I don’t have to deal with drunken idiots. I don’t have to deal with weather. I don’t have to worry about buying ridiculously over priced food. I can watch on my nice HDTV, relax with friends and have a good time.

If you take my team off TV, I won’t go to a game. I just won’t watch the NFL. Sorry, you priced yourself right out of my reach. Bye!

Joe S says:

Protection

This rule, in theory, should protect consumers and preserve the free market. Yes it expensive to go to games, but only because tested levels of demand have indicated a market willingness to pay those ticket prices. Once that market dries up, the team should re-evaluate those ticket prices in order to ensure that games remain a sell-out.

The crux of the issue is where the revenue and demand curves intersect – is it more profitable to sell discounted seats and keep the ad revenue or maintain high seat prices for a more limited audience and relinquish the ad revenue? Furthermore, do you think most team owners really care THAT much?

TheStupidOne says:

In San Diego

Football season in San Diego … you have a number of different types of fans:
A) Die Hard tailgaters and in the stadium screaming constantly at every game, no matter what
B) Die Hard fans that scream at their 60 inch HDTV for every game while watching the replay, wearing a jersey, and indoctrinating their children. (Some of these HATE the stadium experience)
C) Fair Weather Fans that go to the stadium ot watch on TV when the team is doing well or to the beach when they aren’t
D) Casual fans that will go to the stadium if there is a really good matchup or cheap tickets but don’t really care that much. They’ll watch the game on TV if they aren’t doing anything else at the time.

So of these, A won’t care about the black out, B will be INCREDIBLY pissed, C will go to the beach, and D will not even notice.

In the long run B’s children won’t care about the team because they don’t watch the games with dad anymore and a new generation of die hard fans vanishes. Good job NFL

CHARLIE says:

YOU CAN SAY WHAT YOU WANT ABOUT IT BEING AN ECONOMY ISSUE BUT IN SOME OF THE TOP TEAMS CITIES THE SAME ECONOMIC PROBLEMS ARE GOING ON YET THEY STILL SELL OUT….AS FAR AS IF YOU HAVE SATTELITE YOU STILL GET THE GAME THAT IS NOT TRUE….EVEN WITH DIRECT TV’S SUNDAY TICKET IT IS BLOCKED IN THAT CITY SELLOUT OR NOT SO LOCAL TV CAN TELEVISE IT…DUE TO CONTRACTS WITH THE LOCAL NETWORKS HOME GAMES ARE NOT TELEVISED THRU THE SUNDAY TICKET IN THAT CITY THAT IS CONTRACTED TO THE LOCAL NETWORKS….HERE IN MASS AS A PATS FAN WE ARE EXPERIENCING THE SAME ECONOMIC PROBLEMS AS ANYWHERE ELSE AND HAVE THE MOST EXPENSIVE TICKET IN THE NFL YET THERE IS STILL QUITE A WAITING LIST AND WILL BE SOLD OUT FOR YEARS TO COME

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...
Loading...