The Big Ten Conference announced today that restrictions on replays on stadium videoboards (such as HuskerVision) have been eliminated, in an effort to "enhance the football gameday experience." The previous restriction was institutions could only show one replace at no less than 75% of real-time speed. The goal is to give fans in the stadiums access to the same replays as fans watching at home.
Of course, fans watching at home typically don't get as many replays as fans in the stadium. Viewers at home typically get shots of coaches, cheerleaders, and the crowd between plays, rather than replays. Where the networks typically show lots of replays is on key plays, especially when the play is under review by the replay official. Up until now, when a play is controversial, the stadium video screen director is discouraged from showing the replay. In fact, when a play goes under review in Lincoln, the HuskerVision screen displays a "Play Under Review" message.
I asked Scott Chipman, the Big Ten's Assistant Commissioner for Communications, for clarification tonight, and he confirmed that this applies to plays under review as well. "Replays can be shown during an official review until the official makes the on-field announcement," Chipman said.
So fans in the stadium no longer have to ask friends watching at home via text message, e-mail, Twitter, or Facebook what happened. The original policy was intended to reduce controversy, but with the advent of officials using instant replay, it's likely led to the exact opposite effect.
“Our goal on game day is to blend the best parts of an in-stadium experience with the best parts of an at-home experience,” said Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany. “Enhanced replay is just one way to do that and we look forward to making it available to our fans this year.”
Other changes the Big Ten has announced is that each school is being encouraged to add "full WiFi" along with "enhanced audio/visual video content (e.g. locker room video) that would be proprietary to stadium videoboards." The NFL is already doing this, with locker room cameras being installed and several teams considering showing the NFL's RedZone channel on their videoboard. It's an acknowledgement that with the advancement of HDTV and internet technology, the experience of watching a game at home is preferable to the stadium experience for many fans. The seating is more comfortable and climate controlled, the concessions are more reasonably priced, there's no parking or traffic hassle, and the price is better.
Now the Big Ten is signing on-board to find ways to ensure the stadium experience is superior to the experience at home. It will be interesting to see how stadiums improve connectivity. Anybody who's been to a Nebraska football game knows how their cell phone fails at the game. It's tough enough to make a call or even send a text message, let alone try to get online. Now they are going to try to add WiFi for upwards of 90,000 fans?
The bigger deal (to me) is to add more exclusive content. For example, could you image what the reaction would be if the prelude to the Tunnel Walk was a live broadcast of the players doing the Husker Prayer from the locker room? The crowd reaction might just register on a seismograph.
The Big Ten is looking for feedback from fans as to what they would like to see enhanced in the stadium experience. (My one idea is that if we're going to have night games in November, the TV network should provide complimentary seat warmers, blankets, and hot beverages to all fans in attendance. After all, the fans in the stands still pay more than the television networks do.) Fans with ideas are asked to contact Kerry Kenny, the Big Ten's liason to the Football Gameday Experience Subcommittee at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What would you like to see for improving the gameday experience?