To improve sagging attendance numbers, the league, as reported by the Wall Street Journal’s Kevin Clark, will institute a series of drastic changes to try to buck the trend.
“The at-home experience has gotten better and cheaper, while the in-stadium experience feels like it hasn’t,” said Eric Grubman, the NFL’s executive vice president of ventures and business operations. “That’s a trend that we’ve got to do something about.”
So what does the NFL have planned?
For one, they are in negotiations for league-wide wireless Internet inside each of the 31 NFL stadiums.
The reasoning is to open up the information flow, allowing fans to check instant replays and highlights from around the league, keep tabs on their fantasy team, easily access stats to the game they’re attending and even, at some point, letting fans listen to players wearing microphones on the field.
Basically, it will be an attempt to replicate the access a home viewer has and then expanding it.
Gone, too, will be the NFL’s extremely penal TV “blackout” rule, which prevented local coverage of a game if it wasn’t a sellout. Starting this season, teams will have more flexibility to set their own ticket cutoff as long as it exceeds 85 percent. Though only 16 of last season’s 256 regular seasons were blacked out, there has been a tendency–sometimes because of public coercion–for owners or corporate sponsors to purchase remaining tickets to avoid the broadcast bans.
Also, in a departure from past protocol, instant replays of calls being reviewed by the officials will be shown on the jumbotron.
“You have to be able to make the game open, you have to give explanations, you have to give information,” Grubman told Clark.
In order to turn potentially subdued crowds into something more akin to what you see on college football Saturdays, the NFL said it will also loosen restrictions on crowd noise. Public address announcers and video boards will now be permitted to encourage more loudness from the crowd in crucial situations.
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