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Expect More Replays – And More Booing – At SEC Stadiums This Season

As ticket sales slow for most sporting events across the country, the goal for schools, conferences and leagues is to make actually going to games a worthwhile experience.  Prices for tickets, concessions and parking have soared in recent years.  Unfortunately, a global downturn in the economy made those higher prices seem downright ridiculous.  And that downturn hit at about the same time college conferences — led by the SEC — climbed into bed with that ol’ devil television.

The result?  Many people have chosen to stay home and enjoy a wide variety of football games — as well as their own favorite school’s contest — in the comfort of their living rooms with nice, big HD television sets staring them back in the face.  There are more games on television in a weekend now than there were in entire seasons 30 years ago.  Think about that for a second.

So why fight the crowds, pay the cash, and squeeze your rump into a tiny metal bleacher seat when the networks will bring your game (and more) to you?  With closer looks and more replays?  And no drunk guy next to you tossing his cookies on your shoes.

Schools and conferences know this, of course.  Pro teams and leagues know this, too.  It’s one reason Jerry Jones’ Cowboys Stadium features a video board that’s sixty yards long and a field-level club through which his team enters the playing field.  In a word — Entertainment!

Fans want more for their money.

For that reason, the SEC announced yesterday that it will change its in-game replay policy to allow even controversial calls to be shown and re-shown on in-stadium video boards.  The NFL announced a similar policy change just weeks ago.  According to Mike Slive via statement:

 

“The change in policy will allow our fans to see more of the action, including great plays and close calls.  Fans in the stadium now can see many of the same views seen by fans watching on television.  This should add to the overall game experience for fans inside our stadiums.”

 

The only thing missing from that statement was a line saying, “Please, please buy some tickets.”

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LSU Looks To Expand Tiger Stadium; Who’ll Be The First To Go The Other Way?

LSU officials announced yesterday that a proposal to expand Tiger Stadium will be taken to the school’s board of supervisors next week.  That proposal will call for the addition of:

 

* Approximately 60 suites

* Approximately 3,000 club seats (above the current South end zone seats)

* Approximately 1,500 general seats (above the proposed new club seats)

 

A number of SEC institutions have recently completed expansion (Alabama) or renovation (Tennessee) projects at their football stadium sites.  Others — like Mississippi State — are working to add seats.  Vanderbilt is going to add a grass berm area in the open end zone at Dudley Field.  Missouri officials are expected to look at future expansion of Faurot Field.  And at Texas A&M there’s talk of possibly demolishing Kyle Field in favor of building a newer, better, bigger facility in its place.

All that sounds good and the idea clearly is to bring in more cash for cash-strapped universities.  (Though it seems hard to call these schools cash-strapped when they’re bringing in record revenue from ticket prices and television contracts.)

Unfortunately, attendance is dropping across the country for most sporting events.  Many schools and professional franchises are finding it harder and harder to compete against wall-to-wall HD television coverage.

Years ago, a fan’s only option to see his team play was to buy a ticket and attend a game.  Now, a fan can sit in his media room, dial up his own school’s game in crystal clear HD — or even 3D — and also flip around the dial through dozens of other games in a single given day.  Think about it.  You’ll be able to see more college football games in a weekend this fall than you could have in an entire year just 20 years ago.  That’s a staggering jump in terms of options.

Also, some “common” fans are already being priced out of their favorite team’s games.

At some point, one major university will decide to build a stadium that caters first and foremost to the richest of the rich.  The overall seating capacity will take a deep slice while the size and luxuriousness of its suites and club areas will grow.  Bigger seats, better food, better views and better parking.  Closer proximity to the players and coaches might also be a draw — a la Jerry Jones’ catwalk at Cowboys Stadium where his team enters through a club level.

Ramping up the event factors of attending a game while cutting down on the ability to get into said game might just drive overall revenues even higher with less seats to sell.  Think Augusta National.  There might once again be something special about saying, “Yes, I was actually at the game on Saturday.”

In the short run, it makes sense for programs like Alabama and LSU and Texas A&M to expand their stadiums — while also adding club suites and box seats — while the demand for tickets is high.  But all programs have highs and lows, as older fans at Bama, LSU and A&M well know.

So in the long run we may begin to see a shift toward stadiums designed to go head-to-head with the comfort of your own living room.  And that might mean smaller stadium capacities… with much more room and many more amenities for the biggest of boosters.

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Video Killed The Radio Star — How HDTV Revolutionized Kentucky Broadcast Sports

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Content provided by A Sea Of Blue.

This is the first in a series of three sponsored posts by Samsung Electronics Company.

Think about the first time you saw a High-Definition television picture.  I remember where I was exactly.  It was in Las Vegas at the National Association of Broadcaster’s convention, 1993, the year of the Grand Alliance.

When I had begun reading about HD TV and the HD standard (I was a purchasing agent for television equipment and parts at the time) I had never really imagined that it would be that big a deal.  I have lived through years with no television, through black and white TV and the transition to color, and the television picture had not changed in terms of picture quality very much since I was a teenager.  I knew how TV worked, and even though I was aware of the cutting edge, it was all about digital effects, and less about picture delivery, except for what seemed to me to be a bunch of dreamers. 1080 lines, indeed, I scoffed.  Where would you get the bandwidth?  Compression?  At the time, compression was a joke.

Then I saw what HD television really meant, and I was in awe.

I had never seen a picture like that.  At first, I thought it was fake — a video monitor frame around a picture or something.  It was like looking through a window, and the clarity and sharpness were breathtaking.  I couldn’t wait to see the first commercially-viable HDTV sets.  But as it turned out, I had to wait a long time.

This is not about the history of HDTV, it’s about how that particular technology makes a difference in the way I view sports, in particular, Kentucky sports.  I know most of you remember watching grainy pictures of Wildcat basketball where the only way you could identify the players was practically by memorizing their body types and haircuts.  It was like looking at the game through glass made in the 1800′s almost, and then there was that constant picture roll or squiggle you had to adjust constantly in order to keep the frame centered. 

I can remember times when it was almost more enjoyable to listen to Cawood’s dulcet tones on the radio than to watch it on TV.  Somehow, the mental picture I could generate seemed more real, more inspiring, than what the television could deliver.  “Moving from left to right on your radio dial” focused the mind on a visual, not just aural response, and the most flexible display in the known universe is driven by the human imagination.

But as TV got better, and with the advent of cable delivery that helped smooth out the over-the-air interference and constant picture adjustments of the pure broadcast age, we entered a kind of “golden age” of color TV when we could sit around, sip a few beers, watch the game and see most of what was going on, at least within the scope of the camera lens.

As technology marched on and things like instant replay, improved camera lenses, digital picture processing and digital delivery became a reality, the image on the screen began to sharpen a bit, and clear up even more, but it was still the same old 525-line NTSC picture.  As television sets got bigger and brighter, the image reached the point at which making the screen bigger produced diminishing returns.  So we got used to watching the Wildcats in sports bars without really being able to see who was playing until the camera zoomed in on them.   At home, things were better, but the limits of the existing picture delivery had been reached.

And then came HDTV.  I remember watching some sports broadcasts on HTDV in bars and restaurants before I had my own set, and wow, what a difference that made.  There were still some flaws — most of the sets were LCD, and tended to blur a bit during fast motion events, but it was so superior to standard NTSC that there was simply no comparison.  Once you saw a sports broadcast on an HDTV set, you never wanted to go back to standard 525-line NTSC. Ever.

Now, HDTV is the norm, and as that technology improves, watching the Wildcats on television has become a very reasonable facsimile of being there.  You can see the grass blades on the football field, the boards on the basketball floor, the players in all their glory playing the games we love to watch.  More than any other recent innovation save the personal computer, HDTV has massively improved the pleasure I get from the experience of Kentucky sports away from the venue itself.  I get upset whenever I have to watch a picture in standard definition — I have become that addicted to the improved picture quality and aspect ratio.

Gone are the days of grainy, fuzzy picture, replaced now by a remarkable sharpness that, thinking back, is something I still have not been able to take for granted.  To me, that is a measure of how much something is better.  The things that are only a little better we come to take for granted very quickly, but the the order-of-magnitude improvements amaze us even years after they become everyday.  HDTV is like that for me.

So now it’s your turn.  How do you feel about the effect of HDTV on Kentucky sports, or sports in general?


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