Though Monday’s press conference from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell contained plenty of intriguing topics, from overtime to the labor deal to overtime, one fairly important — but less compelling — subject came up several times.
The fan experience in the various NFL stadiums.
In his opening remarks, Goodell identified improving the in-stadium experience as one of the three topics discussed during a Monday morning session with the teams. Later, in response to a question from Sam Farmer of the L.A. Times regarding the possibility that fans eventually will prefer watching the game at home to plunking down big money to be at the stadium, Goodell spoke about efforts to make experiencing games in person more entertaining.
“It may be more comfortable but it’s not more exciting,” Goodell said of the taking in NFL action from the butt-sized groove in the middle of the sofa. “That’s what we talked about this morning. And we are actually going back this afternoon and we will be spending more time over the next couple of days. The issue for us is we are our own competitor in that sense. High-definition television and RedZone, all of those things do make it attractive to watch on television.
“It’s also exciting to be in the stadium. Our challenge is to continue to make it exciting for people to come to our facility. And that comes from a lot of different perspectives. You start with fan conduct. We talk about making sure people feel safe and they have a positive experience when they come to our stadiums. You talk about how we entertain them when they come to our stadiums. We have to do more with technology. That is where we come back to innovation. Can we bring the RedZone into the stadium so that people come into the stadium and feel like they’re being entertained, they are not missing any action around the NFL and they are there enjoying a great football game?
“Our facilities themselves. How do we keep investing in and improving on those stadiums so that they come and have a great experience and great facility? It’s a challenge. You are absolutely right. It’s something that the clubs are meeting head on. We as a league are focused on it and it’s one of our priorities, as I mentioned earlier. Everybody understands it and everyone is dedicated to continuing to invest, innovate and make sure that we make it a great experience for our fans.”
Goodell added that Dolphins owner Steve Ross will make a presentation on Tuesday regarding the Kangaroo product, a hand-held device used at Sun Life Stadium and made available to the media during Super Bowl XLIV. It is a remarkable accessory, providing a variety of viewing options for replays and live action.
“Everyone is multitasking here,” Goodell said. “Kids are consuming three or four different media at once. That is the future. People are going to do that. We all now through technology and these various advancements are getting the chance to experience things we never experienced before in an immediate basis. We can’t ignore technology and we can’t ignore innovations. We have got to lead. That’s what the NFL is doing, leading, so that we are providing our fans that great experience.”
It’s a great approach. Though we’d prefer that the league’s decision to embrace technology include efforts to improve officiating via ball sensors and laser-powered first-down markers and the use of instant replay on a more widespread basis, we can’t fault the league for ensuring as an initial matter that technology is adopted in the name of preserving and expanding the bottom line.
With a gigantic television set hovering over the playing surface in Dallas, it makes sense for every venue eventually to provide hand-held devices that would allow the user to access comprehensive information — including highlights or live video from other games. Basically, with advances in technology bringing the stadium into the living room, the league must find a way to bring the living room into the stadium.
And by all appearances that’s one of the major, yet largely overlooked, themes of the 2010 league meetings.