The Biggest Sports Rivalry In 2014: Television Vs. Stadium

On the last day of 2013 and only four days prior to an AFC wildcard match-up between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Indianapolis Colts, The Indianapolis Star featured an article with the headline, Is Colts playoffs blackout a real possibility?  Roughly 6,000 tickets for the playoff game to be held at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis remained unsold.  This, for a team that has sold out 103 consecutive home games.

Meanwhile, just yesterday it was announced that Samsung unveiled a new 110-inch ultra high-definition television.  Its current price tag at $150,000 is cost prohibitive.  However, it is not the price that is of importance.  Instead, the main takeaway is that there are constant advancements in technology concerning the high-definition TV sector, which continues to interest consumers a lot more than spending the money, time and effort to travel to, park at, sit through, eat and drink at, and make trek home from sporting events.

Spectators of sport want multiple screens displaying numerous games, fast internet access on their mobile devices, food and drink delivered to them, fantasy information at their fingertips, and to be able to see the game without binoculars.  A home entertainment system with access to a food delivery service satisfies said consumer, as does a local sports bar.  How are stadiums to compete?

Yesterday, I highlighted a new partnership between the Miami Dolphins and Qualcomm, which actually does enhance the in-stadium and near stadium experience for fans who are pushed relevant, timely and personalized content on their mobile devices through the implementation of small beacons placed in and around the facility.  But is this technology, along with others in development that are intended to further engage fans at stadiums enough to compete against the at-home or at-bar experience?

This, I believe, is the true test for sporting events in 2014.  According to the NPD DisplaySearch Quarterly Worldwide FPD Shipment and Forecast Report, demand for in thin-film-transistor liquid-crystal display (TFT LCD) panel TVs is expected to grow from 228 million units sold in 2013 to 241 million in 2014.  Demand for panel TVs larger than 50-inches is estimated to go from 27 million units in 2013 to 32 million in 2014.

Demand for expensive television sets is expected to rise dramatically, while stadiums are constantly having problems filling their seats.  It has caused teams such as the Miami Marlins to use daily deal service Groupon to offer discounted tickets in a last ditch effort to sell tickets.  But it is not only the struggling Marlins utilizing Groupon and similar services.  No less than twelve college football bowl games have used Groupon, LivingSocial or Goldstar to push out leftover tickets.  Kudos to venues for understanding that they must do whatever is necessary to sell off their inventory, but this is far from a good sign for stadiums that rely on people to pass through the turnstile.

The Colts are making preparations to host a playoff game against the Chiefs.  It is the first playoff game hosted by Indianapolis since 2010, when the Jets came into town and won by a score of 17-16.  It is a sad state of affairs when mere days away from the game a top headline is the team’s apparent inability to sell tickets to the hometown (or away) crowd.

Meanwhile, the Federal Communications Commission is considering ending the blackout rule that would prevent those local to Indianapolis from viewing the wildcard game at home unless a certain threshold of ticket sales is met by a specified deadline.  Fans may rejoice over the speculation of a rule change; however, teams have to be somewhat worried.  Before long, players may be performing in front of empty stands, with those most interested in the game sitting or standing miles away.

Why should anyone care, though?  Ticket sales are no longer the main source of revenue for sports leagues.  That may be a fair economical point to be made, but is there nothing to say about the toll this may take on integrity of the games played?  Does the game gain a feel of becoming more of a simulation that we score through fantasy points as opposed to real-live action taking place right in front of our eyes?  The ramifications of same are currently unknown.  It is likely something venue operators wish to never discover.

Darren Heitner is a Partner at Wolfe Law Miami, P.A. in Miami, Florida, Founder of Sports Agent Blog Professor of Sport Agency Management at Indiana University and author of a forthcoming book, How to Play the Game: What Every Sports Attorney Needs to Know published by the American Bar Association.  Learn more about him at

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Source: Forbes Business

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