It used to be if you went to see your favorite football team play in the local stadium, you were effectively cut off from the rest of the world unless you happened to sneak in a portable radio. That was then, this is now; and now is ever so much better.
It’s taken professional football awhile to catch up with professional basketball which has used digital scoreboards and video screens for years. But catch up they have, at least in some of the major markets such as Dallas, Washington D.C. and New York. Giant digital screens are now de facto, and yet there are more coming as the numbers of fans that have been attending live football games has been dropping over the past several years as many of them find watching at home a far more pleasant experience.
One of the factors that now effect the average sports fan is the desire, or some might say need, to know what is going on in other games while they are watching the one that is most interesting to them. At home, fans can watch any game they want via satellite, and can use digital television effects to watch several games at once. In addition, ESPN has started offering a service called the RedZone channel whereby fans who subscribe can watch a channel on their television that has nothing but highlights of all the games that are going on at the moment. Then, when you combine that with the hugely popular fantasy football league, where fans want to know instantly how “their” players are doing, you wind up with fans that prefer to watch at home.
To combat this trend, according to usatoday.com (see references below) team (and stadium) owners have begun fighting back with new digital handheld devices that season tickets holders are given when they enter the stadium, or applications that can be run on their own cell phones. To make this happen, stadium owners have begun wiring stadiums with WiFi. Besides being able to watch nearly instant replays on these devices and explanations of things that have occurred on the field, fans are also updated as to what is going on with all the other games that are being played at the same time around the country, including player stats for the Fantasy Football fans. And if that isn’t enough, fans at the stadium can also see the RedZone channel either on the big screen or on their handheld device.
The hope is that the new technologies will make the live fan experience so enticing, when you combine it with the ability to see the action with your own eyes and to experience it with thousands of other fans, that it will be simply irresistible to fans who will then start returning to the games in bigger numbers; and if that happens, there is little reason to doubt that these new technologies will migrate over to other live sporting events.