NFL owners unexpectedly learned last week that the league’s season-ticket sales have moved at a brisker pace in 2011 than 2010, despite the lockout. Even more unexpectedly, the owners also discussed last week the possibility of allowing teams to cover up seats in order to ensure that TV blackouts are lifted.
According to Daniel Kaplan of SportsBusiness Journal, the measure could result in a vote as soon as June 21, the next date on which owners will meet. Five years ago, the NFL allowed the Jaguars to permanently cover 9,000 seats at Everbank Field, which has a capacity of 76,000.
“We talked about reducing manifests for blackout purposes,” Giants co-owner John Mara told Kaplan.
One question that needs to be resolved is whether the league would allow the seats to be uncovered for games entailing a high ticket demand. The Jaguars cannot sell the set-aside seats for a big game.
Either way, the strategy allows the league to relax the blackout rule without officially relaxing the blackout rule. The mere fact that the league is considering the possibility of allowing teams to reduce its “manifests” (hell, they even came up with a different term so that they wouldn’t have to use the words “unsold seats”) means that the league realizes that significant enhancements in the home-viewing experience will have a long-term impact on ticket sales.
That said, the home viewing experience also is enhanced by a background that includes stands filled to capacity. Thus, don’t be surprised if the “manifests” are reduced with green-screen material onto which images of, you know, paying customers could then be superimposed.
Unless, of course, someone wants to pay huge money to slap their corporate logos onto the tarps.