Colts ponder effects of possible NFL season expansion

June 18, 2010

Indianapolis Colts officials and fans are watching with interest as National Football League owners and players’ union officials discuss the possibility of expanding the regular season from 16 to 18 games.

Representatives of the NFL’s franchise owners made a presentation to the NFL Players Association on Wednesday during labor talks in New York.

A source close to the negotiations told IBJ that owners favor the extension, but players, worried about the toll a longer season will have on their bodies, are reticent to embrace the idea.

“We haven't officially voted on it [but] there’s a lot of momentum [among the owners] in meetings I’ve been in,” Green Bay Packers President Mark Murphy told reporters on a conference call Wednesday.

Murphy, a member of the owners’ bargaining committee, said a change could be made as early as the 2011 season—if a labor agreement is reached.
Colts officials are still pondering what this will mean for their team and fans.

Extending the regular season by two games likely would mean lopping off two preseason games from the schedule. That would mean one more regular-season home game for each team, but one fewer home preseason contest.

“This is being floated around in its infancy,” said Greg Hylton, Colts vice president of premium seating and ticket sales. “It’s getting discussed a lot because of the meetings this week, but it’s not something we’ve given a lot of thought to yet.”

Hylton added that the Colts have not taken a position on the idea of an extended season. He doesn’t think an extended regular season would drive the price of season tickets higher, an important point to the 63,000 plus fans that attend the games.

The Colts wouldn’t realize much—if any—of a monetary increase from an expanded season, Hylton said. The team currently sells out all of its home games via season tickets. Those season-ticket packages require fans to buy all eight regular-season home games and two preseason home games at the same price.

The practice of requiring season-ticket holders to buy preseason games along with regular-season games is a common practice in the NFL, and has “caused a lot of grumbling” among fans, said Marc Ganis, a Chicago-based sports business consultant who counts a number of NFL franchises and stadium operators as clients.

The NFL thinks it can increase its television-rights package and possibly increase league-wide sponsorship by extending the season, Ganis said.

An extended regular-season TV package potentially could hurt teams, because most teams have a local broadcast deals to air preseason games. But a bigger league-wide regular-season package likely would more than offset that.

Sports business experts said NFL teams would likely see a boost in ancillary revenue, such as concession sales, from extending the regular season because there are far fewer no-shows during the regular season than the preseason.

The Colts’ home venue, Lucas Oil Stadium, is almost 100-percent full during regular-season games, with about 5 percent to 9 percent no-shows during the preseason, stadium officials said.

But the potential downside can’t be ignored.

“There are a number of people in this business that think the NFL right now has the formula exactly right,” Ganis said. “There’s a feeling that an extension of the season could water down the product and oversaturate the market.”


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