NFL: Listen closely to the fans

In my article “What still irks the NFL fan”, I received many passionate responses on how the NFL could improve the average fan’s experience in consuming the game. Some want to eliminate Thursday Night Football, move the Super Bowl to Saturday and demand a better in-stadium experience.

Let’s take a look at some fan grievances and some possible solutions:

Thursday Night Football: Most players and clients I spoke to have love-hate relationships with this game slot. On the one side they aren’t fully recovered from the Sunday game played the week before. Yet, they enjoy the long weekend following the game in which their coaches usually give them an extra day off. Many fans on the east coast think the game is too late and some fans on the west coast think it’s too early. Many fans don’t have time for them at all with work the next day or family requirements at home.

So what’s the solution? How about a Friday night? Why not? It’s a great night for everyone and doesn’t hurt college football. It gives the players some needed recovery time, there is little competition in terms of programing on TV, everyone can stay up later, sports bars and restaurants will benefit, and there are no angry bosses on Friday morning.

Super Bowl Saturday Night: In a perfect world wouldn’t it be great if the Monday after the Super Bowl was a national holiday, like Presidents’ Day which is only a few days after anyway. Can you imagine the popularity of any President who makes that happen?

Unfortunately, I don’t think it will happen but maybe we can move the Superbowl to Saturday night. Thus, we will have recovery Sunday.

Access to all games regardless of provider:

This a comment from a fan disgusted about limited access to games:

XXXXX writes:
Jun 5, 2013
“Dear NFL, please end this ridiculous system of the DIRECTV deal which blocks the out of market fan from watching their team unless they can and want to have a DIRECTV dish (I can not because of trees). In this day of technology, there is no reason for it other than the NFL's bottom line in the DIRECTV deal. That $$ is better than the hit they would take from the big networks if they allow games to be pay-per-view (or something similar). The NBC/CBS/ESPN/ABC deals reduce in value the less exclusive the games are, so the NFL does the math and says we can charge x max for a pay-per-view and collect that from mostly out of market fans (in market would be at the game or get it on TV assuming no blackout) and our Big Network contract will be reduced by y. I guess they calculate that x is not bigger than y, so it’s better to keep more exclusiveness to the games via no pay-per-view and the DIRECTV (which btw is a small fraction compared to cable subscribers), keep the value of the big network contract up and take the big $ for the DIRECTV contract. Fans? Who cares!?

See, at the end of the day, it’s not about the fan, it’s about the bottom line. How long ago should we have had pay-per-view type of football games? There are certain teams that have a huge following everywhere, and many other out of market fans of every team.

Now they give us preseason on the internet only, and not on DIRECTV so if you want to see your team's new draft picks after a long summer drought from football, you can't even make a night of it at the sports have to pony up $20 or whatever to buy the full pre-season internet stream from the NFL. This bites. It bites real bad.

This situation is up there with the full price preseason tix issue as a pure money grub that sticks it to the fans...with an NFL smile.”

We as TV consumers of the game are being funneled to a few select providers who paid the NFL for the privilege of being “exclusive”. I do get the economics of it but there are ways to divide the pie, keep the provider fees high and give fans more choices on how they have access to games. Other sports have accomplished it. I know we are getting more access on our phones and tablets, which is great when you have to travel. However, that’s not a great consumer experience. We need access through our current providers and in all markets; in the long run it will benefit the NFL by building a long-term loyal fan base.

Owners should focus on traffic in and out of stadium, bathrooms and fan behavior: The TV experience has become so good that the in-stadium experience is becoming less appealing for fans. Since 2008, fan attendance has been relatively flat to below its heightened average during 2007 and 2008 peak. Fans cite unruly behavior, ticket prices, stadium accessibility, Parking and long bathroom lines as major issues.

Much of the local stadium issues fall on the team and/or city that own the venue and not the league office. Many owners are insensitive to the time it can take an average fan to get in and out of a stadium, a bathroom and/or food line. They valet and have private suites. Fans will pay the price of current admission but they want to feel safe, not be inconvenienced and don’t want to wait hours in lines (in or out of their car).

What’s your beef with your owner, your team, your stadium, or your access or the NFL?

Follow me on Twitter: @Jackbechta

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