Sunday, February 07, 2016

As TV makes location less key for sports fandom, the Nets at a disadvantage

Will Leitch's recent New York Magazine column, In the Future of Sports Fandom, State Lines Mean Nothing, makes some verry interesting points about the decoupling of fandom and location:
But 2016 is a far different year to be a sports fan than 1988 was. You can get upset about this as a citizen; that is your right. But for fans, where your team plays has never been less relevant.

In the past decade, the world of sports has changed dramatically thanks to television, arguably in more profound ways than it changed when television came on the scene in the first place. The difference this time wasn’t television itself: It was how we used it. In the past, sports was just another morsel of appointment viewing, like Cheers and Seinfeld and All in the Family. But the rise of streaming services and DVR and everything else that has upended TV has vaporized the idea of appointment viewing: If you’re a cord-cutter, you can drop just about everything and not miss it … except for sports.

This has made sports incredibly powerful: The highest-rated programs at the end of every year are almost always NFL games, and the vast majority of sports teams make their money not from gate receipts but from the deals they’ve signed with various television networks — and the NFL has the biggest television contract of them all.  in the stands.
This may be most true for a sport like football, where people are so far from the action it's truly made for TV. But it does explain why, when the Los Angeles Lakers or Miami Heat visit the Barclays Center, can can feel like an away game for the Brooklyn Nets.

The overall structure of TV deals and marketing still boost Mikhail Prokhorov's franchise. But the ease of fandom for faraway teams, coupled with the Nets' (for-now) weaknesses, will make it ever more difficult to establish a staunch local fanbase.

The disengaged Nets fans

NetseDaily last month noted how Forbes ranked Brooklyn among the 10 "least engaged" fan bases in the National Basketball Association: 
According to Nielsen Scarborough, only 15% of the Nets' market watched, attended or listened to a game last year -- the lowest percentage in the NBA///
Forbes said its rankings are based on "hometown crowd reach (defined by Nielsen Scarborough as a percentage of the metropolitan area population that watched, attended, and/or listened to a game in the last year), three years worth of television ratings (from Nielsen), three years of arena attendance based on capacity reached (from the league), three years worth of merchandise sales (from the league), secondary market ticket demand and premium pricing (from Vivid Seats), and social media reach (a combination of Facebook fans and Twitter followers as a percentage of the team’s metro area population)."
There's been lots of debate about whether the Nets have tried to build a team more organically. We should recognize that one very good player could make a difference. One NetsDaily commenter wrote:
When I was a Nets half-season ticket holder in NJ (not even a full season), I consistently received perks. I had seat upgrades, complimentary tickets, nights with access to the VIP area for free food and drinks, draft night parties, autograph signing sessions, and, what I enjoyed most, Q&As with Rod Thorn and Lawrence Frank! And I was just going to 20 games a year! The Q&As were fantastic, as even when the team struggled post-Kenyon, Thorn would face the music. Qhile I didn’t agree with many of his moves (those drafts from 04 to 07 were horrendous), he got out there, faced the fans, and took accountability. I eventually became a full-season ticket holder when they moved to Newark.
When they moved to Brooklyn – poof – all of that was gone. I was a half-season ticket holder (in much worse seats, due to the enormous price raise), and in two seasons, I was upgraded once (in a preseason game) and went to one post-game autograph signing. That’s it. So, when I had to plan for a wedding, guess what was the first (and easiest) expense to cut? In 2014, for the first time since the mid-90s, I didn’t buy any ticket deal for the Nets. And I don’t regret it one bit. I’ve gone to about a half dozen games individually over this season and last, and that atmosphere is getting worse.

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