Baltimore Orioles: Is television hurting sports?

With the Baltimore Orioles’ team offices closed for the holiday season, the only team in town right now is the Ravens. Of course if the Ravens beat the Cleveland a Browns on Sunday, they go to the playoffs as a division champion. However even for such a big game, the team is having to publicly ask fans to come out.

There have been empty seats at Ravens games all year. It’s also been a league-wide problem – attendance is down. There are varying reasons for this, and it’s not limited to one thing. But one common one I hear is that the TV product is so good.

So here’s the question; is this limited to only the NFL? Because baseball has it’s own attendance issues. Similar to the NFL, it also has high definition games with graphics and other features. Would people really rather sit and watch the game at home than in person?

Baseball and football are two different animals. Football’s right home games, while baseball’s 81. Football’s also once a week as opposed to everyday. And I would argue that’s what sustained NFL attendance for so long in so many areas. Ten years ago the Ravens wouldn’t have to beg fans to come to the game on Sunday. But now people look at the forecast, see it’s cold, and look at the benefits to watching at home, and they have a decision to make.

So what can be learned from this? Should the TV packages not be as good? The answer is no. But what teams need to do is to give people a reason to come to the stadium. The Orioles’ idea of letting kids in for free is an example of this. Yes, you’re giving away free tickets. But the more kids come to the games the more they’ll enjoy themselves. And they’ll become accustomed to being there. Watching on television will in essence become a second-tier experience.

That model isn’t going to work in the NFL. But the point is that you have to find a way to generate interest in coming out. Until that happens, people might continue staying home.

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