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NFL Fans Forgo Playoff Tickets, Prefer the Couch Packers, Colts, Bengals Struggle to Sell Seats Despite Soaring TV Ratings

 
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By
Kevin Clark and  
Jonathan Clegg  
                •  
Jan. 3, 2014 6:36 p.m. ET
 

 

The NFL enters the first round of playoff games this weekend with soaring television ratings, billions of dollars in network TV contracts in their pocket and a nation of football fans who can't wait to hop on their couch and watch a weekend of games.

The league has never been a more popular viewing option. There's just one problem: Fewer people want to actually attend the games.

 
 

Paul Vigna and Geoff Foster discuss why NFL teams are having trouble selling Wild Card weekend playoff tickets.

In the latest evidence that the sports in-home viewing experience has possibly trumped the in-stadium one, ticket sales were slow for the first week of the National Football League's marquee stretch of games.

Three teams hosting games this weekend asked the league for extensions to sell more tickets for the games to avoid a television blackout in local markets, which is imposed by NFL policy if a game isn't sold out. The teams, the Green Bay Packers, Indianapolis Colts and Cincinnati Bengals, needed large corporate assistance to ensure the sellouts.

"This wasn't just financial, this was emotional. This game needed to be on TV for the people of Wisconsin," said Jay Zollar, the general manager of WLUK, a Fox affiliate in Green Bay, Wis. His station, along with two other Fox affiliates in Wisconsin, as well as three local businesses, decided on Thursday to purchase any remaining tickets.

Meanwhile, Meijer Inc., a grocery store chain based in Grand Rapids, Mich., bought 1,200 Colts tickets for their matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs, which will be distributed to military families. A Colts executive said the average price of those tickets was roughly $100.

 

The Green Bay Packers and two other teams needed large corporate assistance to ensure sellouts this weekend—and avoid TV blackouts. Associated Press

In Cincinnati, retailer Kroger Co. as well as Procter & Gamble Co. bought large blocks of tickets to help the Bengals avoid a blackout for their game against the San Diego Chargers. The Bengals declined to comment.

The last NFL playoff game to be blacked out was in January 2002 when the Miami Dolphins hosted the Baltimore Ravens.

Former Oakland Raiders Chief Executive Amy Trask, now an analyst for CBS, said the struggle to sell tickets is due in part to fans increasingly wanting to avoid traffic, parking prices, ticket costs and lack of cellphone service. The in-home experience, she noted, which can now include multiple-screen football viewing, has become much more desirable. She also said there is typically more "tightened spending so soon after the holidays."

"Really the attention should be focused on what can make the in-stadium experience more attractive so people want to come," Ms. Trask said.

The league has tried in recent years. Teams have unveiled Wi-Fi in stadiums and this year, mandated cameras in locker rooms that would become content available only to those

 

The Packers' struggle to move their seats for Sunday's game against the San Francisco 49ers comes as a shock to nearly all in the NFL. Temperatures are expected to hover around zero degrees, though that has hardly stopped the Packer faithful from buying tickets before. The team boasts a six-figure season ticket waiting list and a 319-game sellout streak.

"You are talking about what had appeared to be the most passionate fan base of all," said Andrew Brandt, a former Packers vice president. "I didn't think the blackout issue would be an issue in Green Bay at all."

Mr. Brandt chalked up the slow ticket sales to a confluence of the weather and the fact that ticket requests were sent out earlier in the year when it appeared the Packers wouldn't make the playoffs.

Larry Hall, vice president of ticket operations and guest services for the Colts, said the uncertainty of when the games would be played contributed to fans waiting to buy tickets. The uncertainty is a byproduct of the NFL backloading the schedule in recent years to put crucial division games in the last week of the season, which ensures teams won't have a clear playoff picture heading into the final weeks.

"The NFL has achieved what it desired, with so much still at stake in the 17th week of the season," said Mr. Hall. "But not knowing the day, date and time of the game is difficult whether you're a season-ticket holder or a single-ticket buyer. Our team won our last home game. If two other teams had lost, we would have had a 'bye' this week. That's important to know." A "bye" refers to an off week, meaning the team could have skipped the first round of games.

The NFL declined to comment.

Mr. Hall said that a batch of Colts' tickets are also packaged as group tickets, for sale to corporate outings, social clubs, church groups or other gatherings of at least 20 people. He said that those groups usually take longer to organize a trip to the game, particularly during the holiday season when many people are on vacation.

The threat of blackouts comes at a time when the idea of the rule itself is under fire. Last month, the FCC's five commissioners voted unanimously to issue a proposal that would undo the ban. The NFL said they would fight any attempt to lift the rule.

—Stu Woo contributed to this article.

Write to Kevin Clark at kevin.clark@wsj.com and Jonathan Clegg at jonathan.clegg@wsj.com

 

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BudMillerCoors is not allowed in my house.

**** the owners. If they want to fix the "game experience," they can start here: 1. Bring back the $35 ticket. They can still charge $100+ for the dopes who want to sit in the Citibank seats,

Were you shaking your cane while typing this?

If they think I'm sitting in some freaking ICEBERG wearing 20 damn layers of clothes with some fat guy taking his shirt off, blocking my view and trying to steal my half frozen COORS LITE? They are freaking crazy. They couldnt pay me, let alone have me buy a ticket for a gmae with a -40 windchill, where I spend the whole time shoving hand warmers in my beer to keep it in a liquified state.

Edited by joewillie78
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**** the owners.

If they want to fix the "game experience," they can start here:

1. Bring back the $35 ticket. They can still charge $100+ for the dopes who want to sit in the Citibank seats, but charging premium prices for nosebleeds is absurd.

2. Eat the PSL.

3. Open the parking lots 90 minutes before the game. Sorry, but the goons hanging out in the parking lot for four hours doing shots of Rumplemintz don't belong inside the stadium. They ruin the whole experience for every person who's there to watch the game.

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**** the owners.

If they want to fix the "game experience," they can start here:

1. Bring back the $35 ticket. They can still charge $100+ for the dopes who want to sit in the Citibank seats, but charging premium prices for nosebleeds is absurd.

2. Eat the PSL.

3. Open the parking lots 90 minutes before the game. Sorry, but the goons hanging out in the parking lot for four hours doing shots of Rumplemintz don't belong inside the stadium. They ruin the whole experience for every person who's there to watch the game.

 What is "Rumplemintz"?
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**** the owners.

If they want to fix the "game experience," they can start here:

1. Bring back the $35 ticket. They can still charge $100+ for the dopes who want to sit in the Citibank seats, but charging premium prices for nosebleeds is absurd.

2. Eat the PSL.

3. Open the parking lots 90 minutes before the game. Sorry, but the goons hanging out in the parking lot for four hours doing shots of Rumplemintz don't belong inside the stadium. They ruin the whole experience for every person who's there to watch the game.

 

You take away tailgating and that is the end of large crowds at games.

 

Its simple, how many familys can afford to take there kids to games at the prices?   Not a lot and if the can they only do one or two games a year.

 

Your crowds come from the people that go without young kids and go there every sun to meet up with other friends and hang in the parking lot and tailgate.

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You take away tailgating and that is the end of large crowds at games.

 

Its simple, how many familys can afford to take there kids to games at the prices?   Not a lot and if the can they only do one or two games a year.

 

Your crowds come from the people that go without young kids and go there every sun to meet up with other friends and hang in the parking lot and tailgate.

Not only the prices, but the drunken jackasses at the game. Some of my favorite memories are going to games with my dad. There is no way you can take an 8 year old to a game these days.

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**** the owners.

If they want to fix the "game experience," they can start here:

1. Bring back the $35 ticket. They can still charge $100+ for the dopes who want to sit in the Citibank seats, but charging premium prices for nosebleeds is absurd.

2. Eat the PSL.

3. Open the parking lots 90 minutes before the game. Sorry, but the goons hanging out in the parking lot for four hours doing shots of Rumplemintz don't belong inside the stadium. They ruin the whole experience for every person who's there to watch the game.

 

Agree completely.

 

They keep talking about this "stadium" experience and they've got it all wrong.  Most of the real fans go to watch what's going on on the field, not what else is in the stadium.  The line at Shake Shack would be a lot shorter if there was anything worth watching at Citi Field.  But, it's not even about team performance.  It's about the cost, as you say.  The median income in this country is about 50K.  If I want to take a family of four to a game, I'm in for what, $600 day, at an absolute minimum?  How do you swing that?  Make the games affordable, and people will consider a day of entertainment with their family, even in the cold.  It's just too easy to stay home, order a pizza, some chicken wings, whatever you'd like to drink, avoid public transportation or traffic, and wind up with an extra $500 bucks in your pocket.

 

PSL's never made sense for the average fan.  There is too much of a secondary market.  Unless you NEED to sit in the exact same seats, which is absurd, you can get tickets for every game, and use the money you save on preseason and games you don't want to or can't go to, to cover the inflation you'll pay on playoffs and other important games.  Case and point, friday night before the Panthers game, my father and I bought our tickets, already in carolina, and we sat in the 9th row, and paid like $325 for the pair, with the fees and everything.  Not bad considering those are PSL seats.

 

Tailgating is the worst of it.  I went to the Dolphins game at home this year and listen to a couple, at the game with their two kids, yelling mother****er this and mother****er that, and the woman talking on the phone to what seemed to be the man's parole officer explaining how she's ok to drive the kids home because they shared a bottle of Hennessy or hypnotic or some other hood rat drink before the game but weren't drinking now.  I'm a mandated reporter and have called had to make that call before... It crossed my mind.  But, I wouldn't go as far as to eliminating tailgate, I would breathalyze at the door.  They do pat downs, why not set a BAC level and refuse entry.  This is a public venue, I don't know why it's treated as a frat party and that that is tolerated.  If you want that, than the games should be 18 and over.  Or, protect the place as a family environment.  I'd be shocked if attendance didn't go up. 

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Not only the prices, but the drunken jackasses at the game. Some of my favorite memories are going to games with my dad. There is no way you can take an 8 year old to a game these days.

 

As I say above.  It's the worst.  I really don't understand why a public event, that is supposed to be family friendly, allows serious public intoxication.

 

Although, to be honest, I think it may be in certain areas.  I've had more trouble with other Jets fans at home than I've ever had with an opposing fan at an away game.

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Agree completely.

 

They keep talking about this "stadium" experience and they've got it all wrong.  Most of the real fans go to watch what's going on on the field, not what else is in the stadium.  The line at Shake Shack would be a lot shorter if there was anything worth watching at Citi Field.  But, it's not even about team performance.  It's about the cost, as you say.  The median income in this country is about 50K.  If I want to take a family of four to a game, I'm in for what, $600 day, at an absolute minimum?  How do you swing that?  Make the games affordable, and people will consider a day of entertainment with their family, even in the cold.  It's just too easy to stay home, order a pizza, some chicken wings, whatever you'd like to drink, avoid public transportation or traffic, and wind up with an extra $500 bucks in your pocket.

 

PSL's never made sense for the average fan.  There is too much of a secondary market.  Unless you NEED to sit in the exact same seats, which is absurd, you can get tickets for every game, and use the money you save on preseason and games you don't want to or can't go to, to cover the inflation you'll pay on playoffs and other important games.  Case and point, friday night before the Panthers game, my father and I bought our tickets, already in carolina, and we sat in the 9th row, and paid like $325 for the pair, with the fees and everything.  Not bad considering those are PSL seats.

 

Tailgating is the worst of it.  I went to the Dolphins game at home this year and listen to a couple, at the game with their two kids, yelling mother****er this and mother****er that, and the woman talking on the phone to what seemed to be the man's parole officer explaining how she's ok to drive the kids home because they shared a bottle of Hennessy or hypnotic or some other hood rat drink before the game but weren't drinking now.  I'm a mandated reporter and have called had to make that call before... It crossed my mind.  But, I wouldn't go as far as to eliminating tailgate, I would breathalyze at the door.  They do pat downs, why not set a BAC level and refuse entry.  This is a public venue, I don't know why it's treated as a frat party and that that is tolerated.  If you want that, than the games should be 18 and over.  Or, protect the place as a family environment.  I'd be shocked if attendance didn't go up. 

 

I would have absolutely no problem with that. when i tailgate with the group I usually do i get there at 8 am. whether im drinking or not my limit is like 3 beers in that 5 hours window, while i watch people get sh*tfaced in the lot and then continue to drink inside the stadium. And these are people i know have to drive home. Alcohol needs to be curbed one way or another.

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**** the owners.

If they want to fix the "game experience," they can start here:

1. Bring back the $35 ticket. They can still charge $100+ for the dopes who want to sit in the Citibank seats, but charging premium prices for nosebleeds is absurd.

2. Eat the PSL.

3. Open the parking lots 90 minutes before the game. Sorry, but the goons hanging out in the parking lot for four hours doing shots of Rumplemintz don't belong inside the stadium. They ruin the whole experience for every person who's there to watch the game.

I do shots of Black Haus, I don't want to get too drunk

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**** the owners.

If they want to fix the "game experience," they can start here:

1. Bring back the $35 ticket. They can still charge $100+ for the dopes who want to sit in the Citibank seats, but charging premium prices for nosebleeds is absurd.

2. Eat the PSL.

3. Open the parking lots 90 minutes before the game. Sorry, but the goons hanging out in the parking lot for four hours doing shots of Rumplemintz don't belong inside the stadium. They ruin the whole experience for every person who's there to watch the game.

 

 

Agree completely.

 

They keep talking about this "stadium" experience and they've got it all wrong.  Most of the real fans go to watch what's going on on the field, not what else is in the stadium.  The line at Shake Shack would be a lot shorter if there was anything worth watching at Citi Field.  But, it's not even about team performance.  It's about the cost, as you say.  The median income in this country is about 50K.  If I want to take a family of four to a game, I'm in for what, $600 day, at an absolute minimum?  How do you swing that?  Make the games affordable, and people will consider a day of entertainment with their family, even in the cold.  It's just too easy to stay home, order a pizza, some chicken wings, whatever you'd like to drink, avoid public transportation or traffic, and wind up with an extra $500 bucks in your pocket.

 

PSL's never made sense for the average fan.  There is too much of a secondary market.  Unless you NEED to sit in the exact same seats, which is absurd, you can get tickets for every game, and use the money you save on preseason and games you don't want to or can't go to, to cover the inflation you'll pay on playoffs and other important games.  Case and point, friday night before the Panthers game, my father and I bought our tickets, already in carolina, and we sat in the 9th row, and paid like $325 for the pair, with the fees and everything.  Not bad considering those are PSL seats.

 

Tailgating is the worst of it.  I went to the Dolphins game at home this year and listen to a couple, at the game with their two kids, yelling mother****er this and mother****er that, and the woman talking on the phone to what seemed to be the man's parole officer explaining how she's ok to drive the kids home because they shared a bottle of Hennessy or hypnotic or some other hood rat drink before the game but weren't drinking now.  I'm a mandated reporter and have called had to make that call before... It crossed my mind.  But, I wouldn't go as far as to eliminating tailgate, I would breathalyze at the door.  They do pat downs, why not set a BAC level and refuse entry.  This is a public venue, I don't know why it's treated as a frat party and that that is tolerated.  If you want that, than the games should be 18 and over.  Or, protect the place as a family environment.  I'd be shocked if attendance didn't go up. 

 

This and that.

 

Football as we know it will not exists as is 10 years from now.

 

The Jets should have built a retractable roof.

 

I'd could go on but the NFL owners brought this on themselves.  They made a product better enjoyed at home than their stadium.  They deserve what comes next.

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I think it boils down to cost and access, drunks don't bother me really at all, even if bringing my kids. I don't think everything needs to be sanitized in the interest of protecting children, those who have children and are concerned are free not to attend. Perhaps they could have no alcohol sections similar to no smoking black jack tables for the easily offended

 

The bigger issue to me is spend $500+ to drive 1.5 hrs each way , stand in lines, sit in traffic in the lot, too hot in the summer, to cold in the winter, lines for bathroom and beers.. etc.. all for about 11 minutes of action.. it seems absurd. The last game I went to also had a 45 minute walk to my car for some reason, it was just not worth it from a purely logistics level. I was offered free tickets to a giants game in december, decent seats.. wasn't interested. More aggravation then it's worth

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If they think I'm sitting in some freaking ICEBERG wearing 20 damn layers of clothes with some fat guy taking his shirt off, blocking my view and trying to steal my half frozen COORS LITE? They are freaking crazy. They couldnt pay me, let alone have me buy a ticket for a gmae with a -40 windchill, where I spend the whole time shoving hand warmers in my beer to keep it in a liquified state.

 

 

Sorry about that. 500 pounds gets hot sometimes.

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I think it boils down to cost and access, drunks don't bother me really at all, even if bringing my kids. I don't think everything needs to be sanitized in the interest of protecting children, those who have children and are concerned are free not to attend. Perhaps they could have no alcohol sections similar to no smoking black jack tables for the easily offended

 

The bigger issue to me is spend $500+ to drive 1.5 hrs each way , stand in lines, sit in traffic in the lot, too hot in the summer, to cold in the winter, lines for bathroom and beers.. etc.. all for about 11 minutes of action.. it seems absurd. The last game I went to also had a 45 minute walk to my car for some reason, it was just not worth it from a purely logistics level. I was offered free tickets to a giants game in december, decent seats.. wasn't interested. More aggravation then it's worth

 

 

I just got a smart TV for christmas.  Way smarter than me.

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3. Open the parking lots 90 minutes before the game. Sorry, but the goons hanging out in the parking lot for four hours doing shots of Rumplemintz don't belong inside the stadium. They ruin the whole experience for every person who's there to watch the game.

Were you shaking your cane while typing this?

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To be honest, despite the money, I very much prefer watching a game from home. Living out east on LI, a 1PM game basically is an all day event. We have to leave very early to beat the rush in, then we have to wait a few hours to avoid the traffic getting out of Jersey. By the time we get home, it's 9:00 at night, and then there's the cleanup of the grills. It's just a very long day. Factor in the cost of tickets, parking, tolls, and concessions, and it all gets very expensive.

Meanwhile, watching at home I can sleep in, drink as much as I want from my dual tap kegerator, and not have to deal with traffic or tolls. Plus I watch the game in HD with surround sound. And it costs nothing.

Oh, and the only cursing drunkard I have to deal with is me.

It's fun to go to a game once in a while, but I couldn't do it every week. Not worth it.

Edited by sourceworx
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Easy fix.  Have segregated seating areas for "family viewing" and for "drink-friendly" fans.  The concessions for each area would accommodate their specific needs, and suspicious fans would be selectively breathalyzed at the Disney zones.

 

This way fans can tailgate, get schmammered if they choose.  Go inside and buy more booze, all without ruining the stadium experience for others...or requiring that ALL 70,000 people get breathalyzed. 

Edited by Greenseed4
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**** the owners.

If they want to fix the "game experience," they can start here:

1. Bring back the $35 ticket. They can still charge $100+ for the dopes who want to sit in the Citibank seats, but charging premium prices for nosebleeds is absurd.

2. Eat the PSL.

3. Open the parking lots 90 minutes before the game. Sorry, but the goons hanging out in the parking lot for four hours doing shots of Rumplemintz don't belong inside the stadium. They ruin the whole experience for every person who's there to watch the game.

Pricing out the middle class is where the NFL went wrong, well that, and the RedZone channel, I know that doesn't apply this weekend, but for the most part in the regular season the fans (myself included) are addicted to the crack the NFL is feeding us each week with that channel.

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This and that.

 

Football as we know it will not exists as is 10 years from now.

 

The Jets should have built a retractable roof.

 

I'd could go on but the NFL owners brought this on themselves.  They made a product better enjoyed at home than their stadium.  They deserve what comes next.

 

    The owners kind of care and it's not good to see empty seats, but the reality is,  the NFL makes billions of dollars because of TV and advertising and merchandising.   They could build 20K stadiums and still make billions of dollars.   When ABC/CBS/NBC/FOX, ESPN, DirectTV, now Google & Youtube, Hulu, and Netflix, Amazon, etc are all interested in spending billions of dollars for 5-10 years,  the NFL and the owners aren't all that concerned about ticket prices or fans being priced out of games.    

 

Bars, restaurants, parking lots and so on might care, but really,    even if they sold out every game in a 60K capacity stadium and every ticket cost around $500 , the team would only make around $500 million in gross revenue.   That's not chump change, but when you look at ESPN paying $15 billion at almost 2 Billion per year and thats just ESPN,   it kind of means teams would rather have the wealthy season ticket holders over people who only can get to 2 games a year.

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As I say above.  It's the worst.  I really don't understand why a public event, that is supposed to be family friendly, allows serious public intoxication.

 

Although, to be honest, I think it may be in certain areas.  I've had more trouble with other Jets fans at home than I've ever had with an opposing fan at an away

 

 

As I say above.  It's the worst.  I really don't understand why a public event, that is supposed to be family friendly, allows serious public intoxication.

 

Although, to be honest, I think it may be in certain areas.  I've had more trouble with other Jets fans at home than I've ever had with an opposing fan at an away game.

I feel the same way about Call of Duty and Grand theft auto commercials playing during the 1:00 game while I'm sitting there with my 5 year old trying to turn him on to the game of football.  All of the sudden I'm watching thugs argue and talk about Killing people for stealing their money etc.

I don't understand how all of this stuff slips through and IMO ruins the experience. 

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I think it boils down to cost and access, drunks don't bother me really at all, even if bringing my kids. I don't think everything needs to be sanitized in the interest of protecting children, those who have children and are concerned are free not to attend. Perhaps they could have no alcohol sections similar to no smoking black jack tables for the easily offended.

 

So, there is no middle ground between prohibition and prohibiting public intoxication in your view?

 

I know it's really important to say F U to anything perceived as PC, but your view seems a bit extreme.

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Fuck the owners.

If they want to fix the "game experience," they can start here:

1. Bring back the $35 ticket. They can still charge $100+ for the dopes who want to sit in the Citibank seats, but charging premium prices for nosebleeds is absurd.

2. Eat the PSL.

3. Open the parking lots 90 minutes before the game. Sorry, but the goons hanging out in the parking lot for four hours doing shots of Rumplemintz don't belong inside the stadium. They ruin the whole experience for every person who's there to watch the game.

 

The $35 ticket isn't coming back but your point is great.  They can all have sell outs, they just have to price it right.

 

Right now they are at 5 hours  I am not sure how much they changed when they did that, basically people can't get there at 6am they have to wait until 8.  I don't drink but it doesn't seem like they are having a hard time getting drunk between 8am and 1pm.  The two rows in front of me get up every two minutes regardless of the play to go to the bathroom.  They aren't there to watch football, they miss most of the game.  

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