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Are NFL Broadcasts too... Good?

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There are a number of reasons for blackouts in the Jacksonville area and is something the Jacksonville Jaguars are going to again struggle with this season.  I'll go over some of the reasons for blackouts in the Jacksonville market specifically after the jump, but there is another factor than I haven't seen many people bring up.  With the prevalence of HD television in most homes and the fact that local over the air broadcasts are now in HD (and free), is the NFL in-home production now just simply too good?


Below is a picture I took with my cell phone last year right before kick-off from the press box at Jacksonville Municipal Stadium. I can't remember which game, but I want to say it was against the Houston Texans, a game in which Jacksonville won.

 

Empty Stadium

It's kind of a depressing picture, but everyone who went to the home games this season saw this every game sans the Indianapolis Colts game, the one game targeted by Touchdown Jacksonville to not have blacked out.  This was during the season where Jacksonville was still prime in the playoff hunt and facing a division rival who was also in the same boat however, there wasn't even 40,000 people in attendance.  Many national media will claim that the city of Jacksonville doesn't care and doesn't deserve an NFL franchise.  While part of that is true, there is a segment who really just don't care if the Jaguars are here or not, it's a gross generalization that simply isn't true.

We all remember the housing market bubble bursting, as Florida was one of the states hit hardest by it. Jacksonville in particular has had unemployment rates of 12.1% (Feb. 2010), which is a significant increase over past years.

  • 3.3% avg. in 2006
  • 3.8% avg. in 2007
  • 5.8% avg. in 2008
  • 9.3% avg. in 2009

As you can see, after 2007 there has been a significant spike each year thereafter, and the average so far in 2010 is  12.1% as of February, 2010. I'm not an economist, but I don't see it taking a significant dive anytime soon.

So, as for one portion for the blackouts in Jacksonville, the unemployment rate is a legitimate concern.  As you can see, the years in which the Jaguars began to have black out issues coincides with the unemployment rate spiking significantly.  Another big-time factor that I think has been effecting teams across the country, and not just Jacksonville, is the fact that the in-home NFL watching experience is better than ever.  With technological advances of HD television, in home stereo, and the ability to pause and rewind live television has to be taking it's toll.

For instance, let's compare what the average cost of a Jacksonville Jaguar game is compared to watching the game at home. I'll use what I used to spend (churching it up a bit, I'm cheap) at a Jaguar game when I wasn't in the press box.

Item Price
Ticket for the 400 Level $39.00
Parking (average) $15.00
Large Coke $6.00
Hotdog $6.00
Bottle of Water $6.00
TOTAL $72.00

 

Now, as I mentioned before I am cheap. I don't normally purchase food at the game and I get a collectible cup at the start of the season ($6.00) so I can get refills all season long for only $3.00. I also make use of "Jaguar Dollars", etc. Most people don't do that however, so I wanted to make what the average person does. I'm not sure how accurate my prices are either, just guesstimating. So, for just one person that's $72 a game and multiply that by 10 games. Once you do the math, that's $720 per person per season.  Personally, I don't think that's unreasonable, but then again I plan ahead and make sure I've set aside my "Jaguar" money for the upcoming season, not everyone does that.

If you look at the $720 you'd spend on a single season and compare that to what it would cost to purchase a nice HD television. I'll use myself again as an example, since my wife and I bought ourselves one for Christmas.  We got a 50" Plasma HDTV for a little under $1,000, so we'll say it cost $1,000.  That's $280 more that you would spend on a television than you would 10 homes games with food and drink, but the caveat in this is that a family of 4 wouldn't spend only $720 a season... they'd spend $2,880+. I say plus because let's be frank... kids are expensive at outings.  Even if you're not considering a family of 4 and only 1 person... For $280 more you get all 16 Jaguar games (barring blackouts, of course) in high definition in your living room.  You're at the comfort of your house, you can pause the game and not have to fight for the restroom, and you're in air conditioning. You can get yourself a case of Pabst or a 12-pack of soda for $6.00 instead of spending $6.00 per beer or soda. Doesn't this sound more appealing?

Of course it does.

That's part of the problem in a city where the economy is as bad as it is in Jacksonville.  People just can't afford the luxury of an NFL game right now, and that's okay if that's your situation. It's significantly more affordable for the average Joe to watch the game at home.  Not to mention the production value of the NFL on television has gone up significantly the past few years.

I've been there. It's tough, I know. Personally for me, watching a game at home doesn't even compare to the live NFL experience, but everyone's different. I feel there are quite a bit more in Jacksonville who agree with the latter, but they simply just cannot afford it.

Now, the good news.

Despite these issues, the Jacksonville Jaguars announced earlier in the week they are only roughly 13,000 tickets away from lifting the blackouts for all 10 home games. They reached their renewal goal of 82%+ and also announced the sale of roughly 8,000 group tickets which knocked the previous 21,000 ticket mark in half.  It's a daunting task, but it's attainable.  The schedule hasn't even been released yet and the draft has yet to occur.  Both should see some significant dents in the 13,000 wall of tickets.

Another big time positive for all the ticket sales is the fact that a lot of the crowd at the Jaguar games last season were young.  They were in the 18-25 range.  The Jaguars are at that point in their history where people who were kids (like myself, I'm 27) when the town was awarded a franchise are becoming settled in the corporate world or finishing college.  A lot of this demographic has extra money and they love football, so they're going to the games. This demographic is going to keep growing and as the team gets better, more and more will come.  The 2010 season was just a collaboration of the economy hitting all at once in Jacksonville.  Not to mention Jacksonville wasn't alone in facing blackouts.  Even storied franchises like the Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers suffered threats of blackouts.  A week or so ago there was even a report out in Tampa that it looked dim in regards to blackouts for the Buccaneers.

I know the saying is patience is a virtue and Jacksonville is running out of it, but I feel the situation will solve itself in time.  People around the country forget, this team is still in it's infancy.  They decided to not screw their fans either, by have PSL's like the Carolina Panthers did.  For that alone, fans should be thankful.