GREEN BAY – More and more NFL fans are choosing the couch, over a stadium seat.
It’s a growing trend and the league and its teams are spending a lot of money to try and change it; to upgrade the fan experience.
“I think that it’s just the unity of the fans coming together,” said Michele Geiger of West Bend. “I think Packers football above all other football.”
Geiger, her husband Jay, and some friends made the trip up to Lambeau Field for the pre-season game against the Kansas City Chiefs.
“I love doing it here,” said Jay of watching football, in person. “But I will do it in my living room. I can sit in my underwear.”
With the regular season just one week away, teams will soon start jockeying for who gets a shot at the Lombardi Trophy. But at the same time, the NFL and its teams around the league are in a battle, with themselves. Or, it should be said, their own product and the comforts of your couch.
“That at-home experience with all the great technology and comforts of home is really an incredible way, also, to engage with our game and watch football,” said Joanna Hunter, the director of corporate communication for the NFL.
“So our teams have to rise to that challenge and offer – not the same comforts, but give the fans a comparable, if not better experience from a necessities side.”
But some sports experts say the NFL and teams need to make sure people aren’t priced out.
“And compare that to my 65-inch television and my couch, that’s a tough sell,” said sports economist and St. Norbert College professor Kevin Quinn.
Quinn says before you get your cheesehead in a bunch, Packers games are somewhat of an NFL anomaly when it comes to improving the ‘fan experience’
“The Packers have the number one fan base, well, that’s not an accident,” he said.
But he notes that – league-wide – game costs for a family of four are by no means cheap. That’s where Quinn says all teams need to take a good hard look at providing an affordable, ‘primo’ experience.
“How do they do something to make sure that the in-person product remains a viable alternative?”
“The NFL is seeking those things, in terms of making it better,” said Packers spokesperson Aaron Popkey. “The Packers are doing the same.”
Popkey points to the improvements the Packers have made to the stadium over the last three years; with more in the works, like better cellular reception this year and free Wi-Fi next year.
“Things that we can improve upon and what would make a better experience overall,” Popkey said.
But Quinn says teams and the NFL need to be careful that potential future fans aren’t taken for granted, just because of some physical enhancements. He says focus should be placed on greater customer service.
The NFL says it recognizes that the game is nothing without fans and it’s working to deliver better services.