National Football League ticket sales continue to drop, down for the third straight year. The economy and overpriced tickets are obviously big reasons.But here’s another problem that the NFL might not be thinking of: With huge hi-def TVs getting cheaper every year, the at-home football experience keeps getting better.
Why spend hundreds of dollars per game to stand in the freezing cold and watch your team lose? Now you can buy a massive TV for pretty cheap and watch every NFL game in the warmth and comfort of your living room, where beers don’t cost $9.
So the NFL would be smart to replicate some of the best features of the at-home NFL experience — and add some new ones — to the in-stadium experience. It might just sell some more tickets.
The league can start with a much better iPhone and Android apps, with exclusive, free features for people who are at NFL games. Once again, it would be following Major League Baseball’s lead, which has added some cool new in-stadium-only features throughout this season.
Here’s what NFL game attendees should be able to do on their iPhones that they can’t do today. (The current app has lame features like audio highlights and video only from the press conference.) Special thanks to Bob Borchers — VC at Opus Capital and former Apple iPhone marketing exec — for some of these ideas.
- Free streaming video of the game, to complement the view from your crappy nosebleed seat. Either the main TV camera feed, or alternate angles. Would need to figure out a way to make the video “live” and not delayed — perhaps a special in-stadium wi-fi network like many teams are building, and a special feed.
- Instant video replays, so you can see the smash mouth plays up close, and know when the refs blew a call.
- Maybe something cool with “augmented reality,” so you could hold the phone up, and see data through your iPhone screen, such as the first-down market line, player names, or other information.
- In-stadium social features, such as seeing which of your Facebook friends are also at the game, a chat room to trash talk with your Facebook or Twitter friends who are watching the game at home, and perhaps some “check-in” features, à la Foursquare. (MLB is already doing some of this.)
- In-stadium food ordering, like MLB just rolled out in Philadelphia. Why get up and miss the action when you can order hot dogs or chicken fingers from your seat?
This itself won’t fix the NFL’s ticket woes overnight. But it’s a start. The NFL has to stop ignoring technology — its current iPhone app and streaming video services are overpriced jokes — and start embracing it.
If an iPhone and Android app could make the in-stadium experience richer, more novel, and more fun again, then the league might sell more tickets, and get people out of their houses on Sundays.