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Converging the In-Stadium and On-Couch Experiences

Posted September 7, 2016

Scott Kramer - Forbes


Three weeks ago, I bought my son football season tickets to his university. When he arrived on campus at registration last week, he asked for his ticket package. They told him it was already encrypted into his student ID card. So when he attends a game, the ID card gets scanned for admission. Smart, I thought. That eliminates any ticket resales. After all, if he can’t go to a game, he’s not going to hand over his ID card to anyone else. It’s a far cry from when I went to school, and our paper tickets often got lost, stolen or sold.

I really love the whole digital ticket concept, having used StubHub several times for MLB games and simply adding the tickets directly to my phone.

So with the NFL season kicking off this week, I started exploring some of the digital infiltration into the league. I admit I haven’t been to an NFL game in a few years. Mind you, I’ve been invited and even offered free tickets. But I’ve found the experience watching it on my living room, high-def big screen superior to fighting traffic to the stadium, sitting among drunks yelling obscenities, overpaying for food and drinks, and being shown only the replays that the home team wants me to see on the scoreboard. Besides, while I’m a lifelong Detroit Lions fan, I’d have a hard time justifying the cost of seeing my team play in person. I never thought the Scott Mitchell era would someday be referred to as our glory years.

Apparently, I’m not alone in my reluctance to visit the stadium. I’ve seen several reports this week claiming that roughly 60 percent of NFL fans would rather stay at home and watch their team play on TV. Perhaps high ticket prices help explain why NFL attendance dropped slightly last year. But the in-person visit has greatly improved for fans who actually do attend the games. While the prices are still outrageous — resale tickets for the Seattle Seahawks game now average $466 per ticket, according to recent figures published by ticket service TicketIQ, while the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are the least-pricey at $162 per ticket — most teams and their host stadiums are trying to enhance the live experience with more living-room features.

For example, 30 of 32 NFL venues are now equipped with WiFi — only those in Oakland and San Diego are not, according to published reports — allowing fans to check scores and live stats on their phones, watch NFL RedZone, see how their fantasy team is doing up to the second, and perhaps best of all, see highlights from the game they’re at as well as any other game, at lightning speed and without using up data or trying to connect to a spotty data signal. If you’re going to a game, download the home team’s app and there’s a good chance it will recognize that you’re inside the stadium once you arrive. Then it will send you digital coupons for merchandise, show you exclusive highlights of the game you’re at that are not being broadcast to the scoreboard, let you order food to your seat, compete in trivia games for prizes against other attendees, help you navigate your way to specific food vendors, see roster changes in real time, etc. And many venues have installed phone-charging stations, as well. In other words, the NFL is helping engage attendees and their digital needs.

The experience sounds much more enticing than it was even two years ago. And I’m sure it will become even more immersive as time goes on, maybe even luring me and others back to the stadium. If only someone could use technology to somehow help my Lions play better.