WSJ: NFL Scrambling to Add Digital Access so Fans Stay in Seats

In more than one story we have noted the main reason for pro teams putting wireless networks into stadiums: The possibility that fans will skip buying tickets if the at-game experience has poor connectivity.

In a story Friday from the Wall Street Journal it’s apparent that even the most popular sport in the country — the National Football League — is feeling the pressure to add to the digital experience, because the number of fans who come to the games is dropping. According to the story, the NFL — which is already on record saying it wants to put Wi-Fi in all stadiums — is considering a host of additional digital-access moves, including expanded in-stadium video replays for mobile devices and lightening up on its ridiculous (our opinion) TV blackout rules.

The money quote from the story, which can probably be applied to any major sport these days:

With declines in ticket sales each of the past five years, average game attendance is down 4.5% since 2007, while broadcast and online viewership is soaring. The NFL is worried that its couch-potato options—both on television and on mobile devices—have become good enough that many fans don’t see the point of attending an actual game.

“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.”