By Cassandra Khan, CBS Tampa

High ticket prices and HD quality views from the comfort of the average fan’s home are just some of the causes of a drop in attendance for the NFL. Guest-host for The Commish Mark Cook, and 1010’s own Jim Lighthall discussed why attendance was dropping and what the NFL was going to do to combat it on Friday’s show. “The NFL ticket has priced itself out of the middle class,” said Lighthall, “the average ticket is 75 bucks, and you take a family of four for a three- hour event. If I’m going to pay that much I’m going to take them to Disney World, and we’re going to walk till we can’t walk anymore.”

The drop in NFL attendance especially rings true around Tampa Bay, where every home game of the 2011 season was blacked out. A blackout is when a home game is not broadcasted in any area within 75 miles from the stadium because the game is not sold out. It is an attempt by the NFL to get more fans to buy tickets. The problem is it just seems to be deserting fans.

“For a team like the Buccaneers, they have the potential of losing some fans,” said Cook, “My son already is “out of sight, out of mind,” because he only gets to see a handful of games because of black outs.”

The issue with attendance is reflected in the popularity of the team. Just recently, in a report released by Scarborough Research, the Tampa Bay Rays overtook the Buccaneers as the most popular team in the Tampa Bay area. The Buccaneers dropped 19 percent in popularity. The Rays grew by 1.39 percent, and they offer cheaper ticket sales and broadcast a majority of their games on local television.

Some might say that the Rays are now more popular because they win more than the Bucs. “I don’t believe that if the Bucs win more games the attendance problems will be solved. I’ve got an HD TV at my home that I can pause and go to the bathroom, I can rewind, I get to see better views of plays, and I think the NFL realizes that this is competing with their ticket sales,” said Cook.

The NFL will try to ease the tensions caused by the blackouts by allowing teams to set a lower ticket sales percentage goal before the season begins. This means that instead of having to sell out completely, a team could set their goal as low as 85 percent, and once they sell that percentage of tickets for a game (by the 72 hour mark) it can be broadcasted.

“The caveat of the deal is that it (the goal) has to be set before the season, so if you have a big team coming in like the Cowboys you can’t change it. If you have a game that you think is going to be a sellout, you would end up not making as much money because of revenue sharing,” Cook said.
Setting that lower mark could be what the Bucs need to do. “I think they need to go ahead and set that level at the 85 percent mark, and do what they can to try to get back some fans,” Cook said, “That is kind of what they’re doing with that first game with Ronde Barber, and cheaper food, and no parking charge in some lots.”

In celebration of Ronde Barber’s two-hundredth game with the Buccaneers, the organization is offering free parking, half-priced concessions, and fan giveaways. Barber’s two-hundredth game coincides with the Bucs’ opening day on September 9.


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