Are Blackouts Coming to an NFL City near You?

As I sit here watching the NFL playoff game between the Indianapolis Colts and Kansas City Chiefs, I can’t help but think, “How in the world did this game not get sold out right away”? Just think about it, one of the most dynamic young quarterbacks in the league in Andrew Luck is playing in his first home playoff game. Then remember that these are the two teams that had the number one pick in the NFL draft in the past two years (this presents a good sign to the Houston Texans). Everyone likes to watch the underdogs so this is the ideal matchup. So how come tickets weren’t sold out in minutes?

By not selling out games, the NFL blacks out television broadcasts in that respective city. The NFL used to have no problem selling out games, especially playoff games, so what changed? The answer is simple, the entertainment value of watching an NFL game at home is just too high for the “average NFL fan” to want to go out and buy tickets. Why would the casual fan want to leave their house that is stocked with enough beer and wings to last a year and instead go out and sit in freezing temperatures for three hours and then have to sit in traffic for even longer?

Three of the four Wild-Card games in the playoffs this year were facing blackouts (Cincinnati, Green Bay, and Indianapolis). The one that surprises me the most is Green Bay. How is it humanly possible for the Packers not to sell out a home playoff game? Yes, they got in at the very last minute (literally), but they have thousands of people on a waiting list for season tickets. Cold weather isn’t an issue here in my opinion, these people live in Wisconsin, they’re basically immune to the cold. But for the price, it’s no longer worth it to spend the money to watch a game in person when we could sit at home with our friends and family and watch the game together. So what can we do to change this looming problem?

The NFL has created by far the most entertaining sporting event in the United States right now when it comes to on the field, but what about before, during, and after the game that makes it worth our consumer’s time and money? The Atlanta Falcons have an area set up at each and every home game called “Falcons Landing” filled with many activities that are open during pregame and are all set up by the team’s sponsors. The organization saw so much success with it, they had to get the DJ on hand to tell all the fans to go inside for kickoff because they were having so much fun before the game. Not every team does this and could be something to look into in order to make the fan’s experience so much worth while.

Baseball and basketball games also provide in game fan engagement events that allow everyone to feel as though they are a part of the action. Football has almost nothing like that. With all of the TV timeouts that take place during the course of an NFL game, there is no reason that a team couldn’t implement a 40 yard dash contest for fans (season ticket holders).

Yes, there is only so much we can do as a football organization to make fans come to the games. Most of our attendees are die hard football fans and will be there no matter what, but there are too many that aren’t that way. Which do you hear more often, “Hey, there’s nothing to do this weekend, let’s go to a Bears game” or “Hey, there’s nothing to do this weekend, let’s go to a Cubs game”? Definitely the latter because baseball tickets are exponentially cheaper while also providing close to the same entertainment value as a football game. The cost is simply too high for the average NFL ticket for a casual fan to go to. The NFL is either going to have lower prices and potentially lose a little bit of money or find some way to create a better value for the average fan. Either way, the blackout issue isn’t going to go away anytime soon. If it is not addressed in the near future, more blackouts are going to occur and teams are going to suffer enormous losses. Which one is going to happen first? Only time will tell.

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