Someday, going to a stadium to watch an NFL game may be almost as good as watching it at home.
I was thinking that last week when I read a USA Today story discussing an effort by Alan Amfron and former football star and broadcaster Pat Summerall to sell the NFL on the idea of putting in a laser light on the field that would show the first down line. (So far, the NFL isn’t convinced.)
Yes, this is just like the yellow first down line Fox Sports began showing in the late 90s, but that one is visible only to viewers at home, not the players or the often-frozen and impoverished fans at the game.
That helpful line, the graphics, the replays, the camera angles, the HD-sized image, the couch, the cheaper beer, the lack of lines in your bathroom, all make watching the experience better at home than going downtown to watch it at the Bank of Extortion Stadium.
Which is why, The Wall Street Journal reported, attendance at NFLfootball games dipped down 4.7% since 2007. The league even redefined a sell-out crowd so it could lift the local blackout even if there were plenty of tickets unsold.
The sheer ubiquity of sports video and data online must play a part, too. It seems contrary to say so, but if it’s so easy to see something, might it eventually become harder to get excited by the idea of seeing it in person?
On any given Sunday, NFL, ESPN and other networks provide a wall of video not only on large screens but online, too. The Super Bowl will be videostreamed on PCs and tablets, and to Verizon phone customers, like it was last year. Several college football bowl games were streamed this year and CBS began streaming lower rung March Madness basketball games years ago. You can watch every NBA and MLB game online, except the game in your home market. Even NHL Hockey this year has the audacity to charge $49.99 to watch its ”season,” which is what they still insist on calling it.
The PGA Tour said this week it will offer a live stream of the Farmers Insurance Open this weekend, and then continue to stream every subsequent PGA Tour event this season—some 30 in all-- whether they’re aired on CBS, NBC or the NBC-owned Golf Channel. That easy access might not dissuade ever golf fan from heading out to watch a tournament live. But to lots of golfers, that pales as an experience compared to watching a tournament while you’re doing something else, like, say, actually golfing.