Indy no soft market when it comes to Colts

January 15, 2014
Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

Despite struggles to sell out the Colts’ Jan. 4 home playoff game against the Kansas City Chiefs, Indianapolis appears to be one of the strongest NFL markets.

The NFL gave the Colts multiple extensions to sell the playoff game out before a television blackout was imposed. Naturally, that raised the question about a soft fan base here.

This question seems to be asked often. It should be pointed out that three of four opening round NFL playoff games had difficulty selling out.

NFL and Colts officials insisted the struggle was due in large part to an unusual set of circumstances and didn’t reflect the local market. League-wide attendance and TV ratings numbers prove that might be right.

Let’s look at TV ratings. According to New York-based Nielsen Media Research, the Colts had the seventh-highest average rating in their own home market for their regular-season games. The 36.6 average rating equates to almost 400,000 homes tuning in to each game. Not bad for a small-market team.

The Colts’ TV rating in their home market is up 8 percent over last year and 25 percent over 2011. Of course, 2011 was a 2-14 disaster. Nevertheless, the Colts had the fourth-biggest two-year jump among the 32 teams.

The Colts this season trailed only New Orleans (52.0), Denver (43.5), Milwaukee/Green Bay (42.9), Kansas City (42.9), Seattle/Tacoma (38.6) and Pittsburgh (38.2). The Colts home market TV rating this year was far ahead of the league average of 28.5, according to Nielsen.

That puts Indianapolis—in percentage of people watching—ahead of several other hard-core football markets, including New England (34.1), Chicago (31.5), Dallas/Fort Worth (28.9) and Philadelphia (28.3).

It’s worth noting that during the 2011 season, one of the Colts’ worst on-field performances in Indianapolis, the local rating was still 29.2, which put it in the top half of the league.

Maybe Indianapolis-area fans simply spend less freely on expensive Colts tickets. Maybe more Hoosiers like watching the game on TV than attending live. I think to a degree that could be true.

But before we jump to that conclusion, let’s take a look at attendance this year.

Could the Colts draw 88,043 fans per home game the way the Cowboys did this year? Even if Lucas Oil Stadium was big enough, I think we can all agree the answer is a resounding “no way.”

Still, the team does a fine job of filling the stadium it has. Actually, the team is doing more than filling its stadium. This season, the Colts drew 527,606 through the turnstiles for eight regular season home games, according to the Colts and NFL. That’s an average of 65,951 per game.

We all know how popular the NFL game is these days. Still, with the proliferation of big-screen TVs and surround-sound systems, the Colts were only one of 11 teams to sell out every home game this year.

In fact, the Colts averaged 104.1 percent of Lucas Oil Stadium’s capacity. NFL teams can squeeze a few more people into luxury suites or put up a couple hundred folding chairs to exceed capacity. Only one team this season—Dallas at 110.1 percent—was further over capacity.

The Cincinnati Bengals, which had a playoff run, only reached 98 percent of its capacity for three of eight regular-season home games. The Bengal’s average attendance was 2,654 fewer per home game than was the Colts.’

The Miami Dolphins, a team with a rich tradition, and which this season was in the playoff hunt right down to the final regular-season game, had zero games where the team drew at least 98 percent of capacity, and its average attendance was 64,319.

Are other NFL markets as avid or even more avid than Indianapolis? Sure. Nashville probably doesn’t get enough credit for being a good football market.

This year, like most years, the Titans had eight sellouts while averaging 69,143. Philadelphia easily sold out its home playoff game against New Orleans after stuffing its home venue for every regular season game.

It’s true that some stadiums are bigger than others, and in terms of total regular season attendance, the Colts ranked No, 20. But remember, stadium sizes are built to correspond with market size.

Fan avidity is more a measure of the size of the fight in the dog than the dog in the fight. And the numbers show there’s plenty of football fight in this town.

  • tickets
    I don't think the playoff game ticket issue is a reflection of a lack of interest, as much as it is a reflection of there just being so much money in a market this size. But every Sunday during football season has become like a mini-super bowl Sunday here. Light street traffic and everyone at home watching the Colts.
  • Avid NFL Market
    "Are other NFL markets as avid or even more avid than Indianapolis?" Yes. Green Bay comes to mind. Avid fans aren't fair weather. Not talking about their recent playoff game, which had the same ticket sales issue as the Colts'. Talking about year in, year out, diehard fan support. That is an avid market.
  • What else are you going to do in Green Bay in the winter? Or anytime really?
  • packers?
    Football Fan, you think winning 13 championships since 1920 might have SOME effect on fan following? The Packers are an anomaly, and the town of Green Bay is a fraction of their "market." I think Indy's doing pretty good in its support of their football franchise.

Post a comment to this blog

We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
  1. So much for Eric Holder's conversation about race. If white people have got something to say, they get sued over it. Bottom line: white people have un-freer speech than others as a consequence of the misnamed "Civil rights laws."

  2. I agree, having seen three shows, that I was less than wowed. Disappointing!!

  3. Start drilling, start fracking, and start using our own energy. Other states have enriched their citizens and nearly elminated unemployment by using these resources that are on private land. If you are against the 'low prices' of discount stores, the best way to allow shoppers more choice is to empower them with better earnings. NOT through manipulated gov mandated min wage hikes, but better jobs and higher competitive pay. This would be direct result of using our own energy resources, yet Obama knows that Americans who arent dependent of gov welfare are much less likely to vote Dem, so he looks for ways to ensure America's decline and keep its citizens dependent of gov.

  4. Say It Loud, I'm Black and Ashamed: It's too bad that with certain "black" entertainment events, it seems violence and thuggery follows and the collateral damage that it leaves behinds continues to be a strain on the city in terms of people getting hurt, killed or becoming victims of crimes and/or stretching city resources. I remember shopping in the Meadows area years ago until violence and crime ended make most of the business pack you and leave as did with Lafayette Square and Washington Square. Over the past 10 to 12 years, I remember going to the Indiana Black Expo Soul Picnic in Washington Park. Violence, gang fights and homicides ended that. My great grandmother still bears the scares on her leg from when she was trampled by a group of thugs running from gun fire from a rival gang. With hundreds of police offices downtown still multiple shootings, people getting shot downtown during Black Expo. A number of people getting shots or murdered at black clubs around the city like Club Six on the west side, The Industry downtown, Jamal Tinsley's shot out in front of the Conrad, multiple fights and shootings at the skating rinks, shootings at Circle Center Mall and shooting and robberies and car jackings at Lafayette Mall. Shootings and gang violence and the State Fair. I can go on and on and on. Now Broad Ripple. (Shaking head side to side) Say It Loud, I'm Black and I'm Ashamed.

  5. Ballard Administration. Too funny. This is the least fiscally responsive administration I have ever seen. One thing this article failed to mention, is that the Hoosier State line delivers rail cars to the Amtrak Beech Grove maintenance facility for refurbishment. That's an economic development issue. And the jobs there are high-paying. That alone is worth the City's investment.