Monday, January 5, 2015

Empty Seats the New Normal in Big-Time Sports

If yesterday's GoDaddy Bowl (Toledo vs. Ark. St. in front of 36,811 fans) or the previous day's Birmingham Bowl (Florida vs. E. Carolina in front of 30,083 fans) didn't inspire anything more from you than a tweet to's to be expected.  It's just the new normal.

The painfully-drawn out and often-obscure bowl schedule is a reflection of today's pro big-time sports culture, where TV dollars matter more than seats.

In fact, USA TODAY writes:
In 1995-96, there were 18 bowl games. Now there are 38, plus a national championship game — four more bowls than last season, including two at stadiums that seat just 25,000 and 15,000. Next year, bowl organizers are set to add another new lower-tier game that might be fortunate to draw more than 25,000 fans.

That's because even though ticket demand is relatively low for lesser bowls, millions of viewers keep watching, even if it's the Camellia Bowl in Montgomery, Ala., a game that drew just 20,256 fans last week but attracted an average television audience of 1,114,000, according to ESPN.

Last season, schools and conferences again struggled to sell their bowl ticket allotments and were required to pay for a record $23.8 million in unsold tickets, according to NCAA financial records. Many bowl games in recent years also have tried to offload tickets on discount sites such as Groupon.

But on television, bowl games are a sure thing, having drawn much larger audiences than other sports programming, not to mention other content on other channels. And that's what really matters these days.
We can draw two conclusions:
  1. TV dollars will soon be more important than attendance numbers for ALL leagues.
  2. It may not be long before we actually see a new bowl game inspired by Glenn Foley's famous comment in 1992.


  1. Even with those two conclusions, empty stadiums will influence TV ratings (negatively) and the game by itself. No matter which game, the crowd influence the game/players.

    So yes, attendance will have less and less influence on revenues compare to TV ratings but fans are buying jerseys, caps, souvenirs, and this is another type of revenues (with food) that need to be considered too.

  2. Don't worry, I'm sure Noah can spin this. No fans mean less expenses for vendors and cleaning staff. If TV ratings are all a team needs, they should just allow the team to move to Montreal, but maintain exclusive broadcast rights in the Tampa Bay region. Its win-win. The current fans who prefer not to bother with the hassle of going to a game can just watch it from home, while the team is moved to a city where fans may actually come out to the game.