By admin | January 6, 2014
By Richard Allen
Several years ago when HDTV was just beginning to come into its own, I remember hearing a commentator say that the new innovation would have a far greater impact on attendance at sporting events than anyone could imagine. I am beginning to wonder if he was right or if there are other factors also playing a role in the drop-off in seats being sold in stadiums around the country.
There is nothing like attending a live sporting event in person. The feel, the energy and the excitement are unrivaled. However, being there does come with some drawbacks.
This past October I took my youngest son to his first University of Tennessee football game, and it proved to be an unforgettable experience. Tennessee beat South Carolina with a last second field goal in one of the most exciting games I had ever been witness to in person. And my son was thrilled to have been there.
But at the same time, being there came with a significant price. By the time we got through traffic both to and from the game, we had basically used up the entire day. We had to pay $20 to park over a mile from the stadium. Concession prices were ridiculous. There were long lines for the restroom. And, we bought lunch on the way there and dinner on our return trip home. The tickets for the game had been purchased in a special deal for only a few dollars, but when all was said and done, those cheap tickets wound up costing me over $100.
It seems as if more and more people are opting to avoid all of the pitfalls mentioned above in favor of staying home and watching sports on television. And that is especially true when the quality of the picture on an HDTV screen is better than actually being there. Not only can a person watching from home have the same clear definition as someone in the grandstands, but television offers replays, close up views, multiple angles and more.
Also, of course, hot dogs aren’t $6, lines for the restrooms are not nearly as long and the viewer doesn’t have to spend half the day in traffic.
This realization seems to be taking hold. Look at the NASCAR attendance drop-offs of recent years. There seemed to be more empty seats at some of the recent college football bowl games than ever before and even the vaunted NFL had difficulty selling out some of its first round playoff games this year.
But to say that attendance woes at sporting events are entirely related to the quality of the picture on the TV screen would be a bit of a stretch. NASCAR has also offered up some rather lackluster racing over the past few years. College football’s BCS system has rendered every bowl game but one useless, and there were serious weather concerns for a couple of those NFL games going into this past weekend.
Another personal experience from this past year also demonstrates a reason for some people staying at home rather than attending an event. In March, I took my oldest son to his first NASCAR Sprint Cup race at the Bristol Motor Speedway. While it was an entertaining race…and post-race, there was definitely something missing.
As some of you may already know, I tend to be very active on social media during the races. I have the Trackpass feature from NASCAR.com, which allows me to listen to driver/crew chatter and I relay much of what I hear onto Twitter. Also, I interact with those who I follow and those who follow me. For me, it makes for a much more entertaining experience. Without those things in Bristol, I wasn’t getting the full experience I had grown accustomed to.
As I said at the beginning of this piece, there is nothing like attending a live sporting event in person, if the sporting event is worth attending. For NASCAR in particular, they have to find a way for the leader to get passed somewhere other than on pit road. And they have to find a way to make the 200-300 miles in the middle of the race more than just an act of teams positioning themselves for the final fuel mileage stretch.
I have no doubt that HDTV has affected sports attendance to some degree. The days of needing 100,000+ seats encircling sporting venues may be behind us forever. But HDTV isn’t the only reason fans aren’t showing up at some of these events.
Please also consider reading “NASCAR on TV: Is DVR changing the way fans watch?”
Topics: Articles |