The Jacksonville Jaguars are toying with the idea of streaming NFL action from around the league in the stadium during home games. Jokes aside, it's a smart idea and a telling sign of the NFL's league-wide struggles to get fans into stadium seats.
The Jacksonville Jaguars want to bring all of the perks of watching football in your living room … to the stadium.
The franchise may let fans who attend their games watch highlights from other games around the NFL, by streaming the NFL’s Red Zone Channel continuously on a section of Everbank Field’s gargantuan new video screens. Jaguars president Mark Lamping floated the idea in a Monday interview with Sports Business Journal (via ProFootball Talk).
“We know this would be welcomed by the large portion of our fans who are transplants to Jacksonville, as well as all fantasy football enthusiasts,” Lamping said.
For the non-football-obsessed, NFL RedZone is a channel that airs Sunday afternoons, broadcasting potential scoring situations from all of the games in progress. Since its debut in 2009, the RedZone has become essential viewing for fantasy football owners who want to track their rosters across multiple teams. At the moment, keeping track of several games in real time can be difficult while attending a game in person. The Jaguars brass are looking to change that.
The RedZone possibility comes as part of a $63 million stadium renovation plan for Everbank Field, agreed to by the team and the city of Jacksonville last month, scheduled to be completed in time for the 2014 season. In addition to the video screens, the renovation will transform a patio section into am air-conditioned “Fantasy Lounge,” complete with 20 high-definition TV screens.
The Jaguars tied for the worst record in the league last season, and they’ve had trouble selling tickets to games and drumming up national attention playing in one of the NFL’s smallest media markets. To make matters worse, they’re competing for football dollars in a region where college football has long been king.
We know you’re thinking it, so let’s go ahead and get the jokes out of the way: It's better than the game happening on the field! Jaguars fans are used to watching other teams score touchdowns! No video screen is big enough to help (quarterback) Blaine Gabbert see an open receiver downfield!
Like most things involving the Jaguars, it’s easy to laugh at. And the franchise may have more trouble selling tickets than most, but they're not the only ones faced with the challenge of luring fans out of their living rooms and into stadiums.
The reason: The NFL has become almost too good at tailoring its games to television. The NFL is more valuable than ever, with TV ratings and league revenue at historic highs; Super Bowl broadcasts routinely set records for TV viewership. Given the choice of an expensive ticket, hard seat, limited view, and potentially inclement weather versus a recliner, multiple game options, climate control, and that helpful yellow first down line, more and more fans are choosing to stay home. High definition broadcast and the immense popularity of fantast football are making it an easier choice than ever.
Since peaking in 2007, fan attendance at NFL games has been on a steady downward trend, hitting its lowest level since expanding to 32 teams a decade ago in 2011 (attendance rebounded slightly in 2012).
That has prompted the NFL to try out a number of improvements to the in-game experience. Commissioner Roger Goodell has said he wants WiFi to be available in all NFL stadiums, and the league announced in April that all teams will have cameras in their locker rooms for the upcoming 2013 season, with the footage only available in-stadium. Additionally, teams will be required to show all footage used in replay decisions on stadium video screens.
None of this means the NFL is in any financial danger (quite the opposite, in fact). It just means the league’s profitability is becoming more dependent on television, and we could be careening toward a future where teams play games in vast empty studios for an audience entirely comprised of at-home viewers.
The NFL isn’t quite ready for that. And the Jaguars are just taking a few extra steps in preventing it. If they can get a better team to showcase on their giant video screens, they just might succeed.