The Social Networking of NFL Games

Hey radio, you ought to be doing this.

The NFL Giants and Jets are building a social network around a single event – a football game – that lasts only during the game and that includes only those paying customers who attend.

Interested in getting in on this? I think radio can and should be moving to special event social networking.

When Jets and Giants fans go to East Rutherford, NJ to see their teams play, they will have a second game going on – in their hands, on their iPads and mobile phones. It's fascinating because after paying all that money to buy a ticket to see an NFL game, these fans will have their attention diverted to other media.

You don’t have to look far to see where this is already happening.

Just go to a sporting event – any event, really – no one puts down their cell phones. During the hockey playoffs, every time a player crashed into the glass smashing an opponents face, there was often a fan on the other side of the glass texting. Hey, they’re not going to let two huge hockey players skating right at them at top speed stop them from texting.

The Giants and Jets will offer fans who attend their games a free app for their phones this season so that they will be able to see replays, get stats and view snippets from other NFL games in real-time.

One catch.

The app will only work at the new Meadowlands Stadium and will only work for one game at a time.

A piece in The New York Times previewed what is ahead:

“Over the next few years, stadium officials say, the applications will provide fans with statistics on the speed of players and the ball, and fantasy games that will allow them to pick players and compete against other fans. A real-life game no longer seems to be enough”.

The NFL is dealing with the inevitable which is the best seat in the house at a football game is in your house on an easy chair. The NFL knows if it wants fans to show up, it will have to change and offer more or else they may not continue buying tickets. The NFL is always very smart about these things because the X factor is the next generation which may very well stay home and watch on a mobile device while doing other things at the same time.

The new Meadowlands Stadium has spent, according to the article, $100 million on new technology. They’ve hired a TV exec to oversee game day production for the fans.

For fans who do not have phones (try to find one), 2,200 TVs with 48,000 square feet of screens have been installed around the stadium. Some 500 wireless antennas have been added to handle the demand which is thought to be under 10,000 of the fans. Probably more as it catches on. Other teams will likely follow suit.

NFL attendance was down about 3% last year perhaps recession-related and TV viewership is up.The Jets and Giants are charging license fees for season ticket holders ranging from $1,000-20,000 per seat plus the cost of the tickets which could be $90 to $700 a game.

Cisco and Verizon are providing the technology for the virtual football game experience.

What the NFL is doing is what radio should be doing now. Offering apps for people attending client events that are sponsored by the station and for concerts and other shows.

Where radio once did remotes with vans and air personalities, it may now want to produce a happening using a dedicated app that can only be accessed at the sponsor’s location with lots of useful information changing hands, not the least of which could be winning prizes or getting random buy signals – or what I call, discounts.

In assessing the NFL’s move one thinks of all the technology involved.

But when I look at it, I see all the content that is involved along with promotion, same day production and social networking.

And the opportunities to collect fans’ email, phone numbers, Facebook links and Twitter addresses seamlessly.

That’s what the radio industry does – create content.

I’ve been pushing radio executives into thinking about redefining what radio is. Of course, there is still 24/7 terrestrial broadcasting, but there is also separate content streaming, mobile content, blogging, mobile video and content and social networking.

If you want to be in a growth industry, it is in a sense on the 20-yard line just beginning to move the ball.

I believe this is a game you’ll want to get into.

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