|Wi-Fi is just one of the ways the NFL hopes to improve fans' in-stadium experience. (US PRESSWIRE)|
Earlier this month, the NFL announced that the "All-22" coaches film would be available to fans for the low, low coast of $70 per season. Some media folks think it's a bad move by the league because it could lead to even more second-guessing from fans (is that possible?). The reality is closer to what CBSSports.com's Will Brinson wrote recently: "When people stop complaining and questioning football decisions, that's when the league will have a problem, because there won't be any interest in the game."
Plus, as NFL Films' Greg Cosell pointed out, just because fans have access to the same information as players, coaches and talent evaluators, it doesn't mean they'll suddenly know what to do with it.
"One thing that people have to recognize is that, if you really want to watch coaching tape, it's work," Cosell told Yahoo.com's Doug Farrar recently. "It's not a 10-minute exercise. And it's work that takes an awful lot of time. I can honestly say that it took me three or four years, sitting with quarterbacks and coaches right next to me, to have any real sense of what I was looking at. Beyond just the simple stuff. And it really takes a lot of work to do that."
We mention that to introduce this: the NFL has embraced technology as part of a wider effort to keep the fans they have and attract the ones they don't. And that extends beyond the living room and into the stadiums.
In an attempt to boost attendance (according to the Wall Street Journal's Kevin Clark, ticket sales have declined in each of the past five seasons, and average game attendance is down 4.5 percent since 2007), the league has some new in-stadium enhancements. Fans will now be able to see the same replays as the officials during a review, there will be Wi-Fi in every stadium, in addition to smartphone apps that could let fans listen to players on the field wearing microphones.
"The at-home experience has gotten better and cheaper, while the in-stadium experience feels like it hasn't," Eric Grubman, the NFL's executive vice president of ventures and business operations, told Clark. "That's a trend that we've got to do something about."
And that includes making the NFL experience mirror the college football experience. Details via Clark:
The NFL says it has "liberalized" its restraints on crowd noise. Stadiums will now be free to rile up crowds with video displays, and public-address announcers will no longer be restrained from inciting racket when the opposing offense faces a crucial third down.
The 2012 season will also include less stringent blackout restrictions. The owners passed a resolution that will now allow for games to be televised in local markets even when as few as 85 percent of tickets are sold. Again, Clark has the details.
Under the new rule, each team has more flexibility to establish its own seat-sales benchmark as long as it is 85 percent or higher. To discourage teams from setting easy benchmarks, teams will be forced to share more of the revenue when they exceed it.
Because of slumping stadium attendance, long-standing season-ticket waiting lists have disappeared in several cities. Full-season tickets are readily available on the websites of 20 of the league's 32 teams.
The NFL likes to blame the economy for the downturn in attendance, but the long-term concerns go back to the sport's popularity as a television event. "TV ratings for NFL games are so strong that broadcasters have guaranteed the league $27.9 billion from 2014 through 2022," Clark writes. "That is by far the world's richest sports-broadcasting contract."
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