PORTLAND, Ore.(TheStreet) -- If the National Football League is serious about wanting to put more fans in the seats, maybe it should figure out how to make mobile apps more of an integral part of the game and less of a distraction from it.
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 last year, 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 last year, according to
Team Marketing Report
Maybe it has something to do with the fact that NFL games accounted for 31 out 32 of the most-watched TV broadcasts last fall and more than doubled the prime-time viewership of Fox, ABC, CBS and NBC. Collectively,
21st Century Fox
agreed to pay the NFL $28 billion for broadcast rights through 2022.
has a separate $1.9 billion annual deal for Monday Night Football, while
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 NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell blamed high-definition broadcasts of games for the league's attendance woes in certain markets back in November.
"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. While there's no app to turn your smartphone into an in-game space heater, here are just a few that provide the comforts of home:
NFL Sunday Ticket
Free to download, $60 monthly or $300 five-month subscription required
Considering DirecTV boosted the cost of its NFL Sunday Ticket 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 to $225 while leaving the price of its more flush Max package untouched, it's clear where they're prodding you. The good news is that the Red Zone channel, Short Cuts channel and access through your computer or mobile devices is all included for the extra $75. Those who paid the base price for all of that a few years back may still bemoan that premium price tag, but those features can't be found elsewhere and may not get any cheaper after DirecTV's deal with the NFL ends in 2015.
Is that Sunday Ticket a little more than what you're looking for, especially if you just want to watch the home team while you're away? If you're willing to connect a SlingBox to your cable, satellite or DVR, this app will let you watch live games you're already paying for just like you would at home. You can even watch and control games you've recorded if you don't feel like wasting data on commercials. Users can change channels, schedule game recordings and pause or skip through those games all from their mobile devices. Also, unlike paid football apps that lose their usefulness once the season ends, you only pay for this once.
Instead of messing around with myriad different apps like it did last year, the NFL dumped all of its features onto one app and set pay walls where necessary. Fans get live stats, scores, video highlights and news for free and can tailor all this to their favorite team. Yes, you can get all of that just about anywhere else, which is why the NFL also uses its app as a gateway for premium services such as full-game replays ($70/$18 a month for the whole league or $30 a year for just your favorite team) and its NFL Audio Pass that provides radio access to all games all season long for $40.
customers, however, get to upgrade to premium features including live streams of NFL RedZone on Sunday afternoons, live NFL games on Thursday, Sunday and Monday Nights, live game audio, live NFL.com webcasts and NFL Network 24/7.
It's not a football app, but the closest thing to mobile sports omnipotence you'll be able to get. This app provides personalized scoreboards, live game video updates, in-game stats, box scores, game summaries and standings for not only NFL games, but baseball, basketball, hockey, soccer, boxing, mixed martial arts, racing and other sports. The app puts scores and updates for your favorite teams on one screen while providing
news, analysis and video clips for those games and others. Set alerts for one game or set them for the season: Even when life's annoying non-sports distractions get in the way, ScoreCenter has your back.
Yahoo Fantasy Sports
We generally don't endorse one fantasy football app over another, but
gave us no choice when it acquired developer Bignoggins Productions and its multi-platform Fantasy Monster app. The bad news is that if you benched Adrian Peterson in your Yahoo league when his legs turned to jelly at the end of the season, but kept him in your NFL.com lineup, you're out of luck. It's great news, though, for players who liked Fantasy Monster features such as quick drag-and-drop edits and updates to all of your fantasy teams in any sport. Those are all being integrated into Yahoo's Fantasy Sports app and should make it a bit less of a nightmare to contend with than in years past.
Super Shock Football HD
It's tough to explain electric football to folks who've been playing football video games their whole lives. Just the thought of putting a bunch of figurines on a buzzing box and playing "football" makes it sound like previous generations were the most easily entertained bunch of simps in history. But there was strategy to it. There were formations and plays ... there was
! Somehow the developers at
managed to capture both the genius and absolute absurdity of electric football perfectly in Super Shock Football HD, which converts the cheap cardboard buzzbox gridiron into a colorful 3-D stadium with lush HD graphics. Players can lob the ball with a flick of their finger, chose from 20 "plays" or just go free form and nudge players around themselves, play a two-player split-screen game and watch as real-time physics makes fools of everyone involved. The best features, however, are the tongue-in-cheek nod to the game's cheap ancestors, such as a stat tracking feature and stadium weather that basically immerses tiny players in a layer of rain or snow.
iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch
Want to bet against your friends on some NFL action but still want to pay the rent? SportsPicker lets you and your buddies pick the outcome of football, basketball, baseball, hockey, soccer and college football and basketball games. Wins earn you points that can be exchanged for cash prizes, gift cards, video games and more. Favorites always pay out the same, but picking an underdog correctly can double the take. No, it's not the same as that pick 'em the guy from accounts payable ran in the break room last season, but it also won't earn you the same visit from HR he got, either.
-- Written by Jason Notte in Portland, Ore.
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Jason Notte is a reporter for TheStreet. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Huffington Post, Esquire.com, Time Out New York, the Boston Herald, the Boston Phoenix, the Metro newspaper and the Colorado Springs Independent. He previously served as the political and global affairs editor for Metro U.S., layout editor for Boston Now, assistant news editor for the Herald News of West Paterson, N.J., editor of Go Out! Magazine in Hoboken, N.J., and copy editor and lifestyle editor at the Jersey Journal in Jersey City, N.J.