PORTLAND, Ore.(TheStreet) – The NFL doesn't hide the fact that mobile technology is a huge part of its future.
It's a big part of the reason Atlanta is paying $200 million in tax dollars to replace a Georgia Dome that's little more than 20 years old. It's a huge part of why Minnesota is on the hook for nearly $500 million of the cost of a $1 billion stadium for the Vikings that's set to host the Super Bowl in 2018. It's playing a big role in the opening of the San Francisco 49ers new stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., right in the middle of Silicon Valley.
The NFL needs technology on its side largely because technology has become its biggest threat. NFL game attendance jumped from a post-recession low of 17.14 million in 2010 to 17.3 million last year, but was still well short of the record 17.6 million that came out in 2006 and 2007. There were nearly 1 million empty seats at regular season games in 2012, up 50% from just four years earlier. Meanwhile ticket revenue has stagnated from increases of 7.2% annually from 2004 through 2008 to just 2.1% from 2008 through 2012, according to Team Marketing Report.
Why attend games when high-definition broadcasts look great from the warm, cozy, inexpensive confines of your own home? There's a reason why 34 out 35 of the most-watched TV broadcasts last fall and more than 205 million U.S. viewers total watched games on television last year. Collectively, 21st Century Fox, CBS and Comcast's NBC agreed to pay the NFL $28 billion for broadcast rights through 2022. Walt Disney's EPSN has a separate $1.9 billion annual deal for Monday Night Football, while DirecTV has a $1 billion per season agreement for the NFL Sunday Ticket package that is set to become even more lucrative once the current contract expires in 2015. Even Thursday Night Football draws TV money, as CBS paid $275 million for the rights to it for 2014.
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Little more than a year ago, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell admitted that high-definition television was one of the league's greatest strengths. He noted, however, that it isn't exactly doing wonders for attendance.
“One of our biggest challenges in the league is the experience at home,” Goodell said. “HD is only going to get better.”
That's especially true in the cold-weather markets, where no amount of technology can take the bitter chill off late season games and where the Buffalo Bills last season continued their tradition of blacking out late-season games. The NFL and its partners have started gearing their apps toward enhancing the live game experience, but also seem to hope that people will use them even as they're watching another game at home. We took some time to go app shopping and found five that will help you brave the elements at the stadium, but also make life a little easier if you're juggling games and managing a fantasy football roster at home:
NFL Sunday Ticket
Available for: Apple iPhone, iPod, iPad, Google Android, Android Tablet
Price: Free to download, $55 monthly or $330 six-month subscription required
Nobody has any idea where the NFL Sunday Ticket package will end up next year, so jump on it while DirecTV still has exclusive rights.
DirecTV still offers a package that features every NFL game every Sunday in HD, a player stat tracker and up to eight games at once on the Mix channel and dropped to $240, but the more flush Max package untouched is what you need to go mobile. The good news is that the Red Zone channel, the new Fantasy Zone fantasy football channel, the Short Cuts channel of condensed 30-minute games and connection to NFL.com's fantasy football leagues are all included. You can even watch two games playing at the same time. The bad news? There's a not-so-slim chance that this all changes dramatically next year.