Rams, Chargers continue to play home games in relative privacy

NFL fever is still at an ice-cold pitch in Los Angeles, where both the Rams and Chargers saw tons of empty seats yesterday. Take it away, sports Twitter:

As with last week, the empty seats are scattered throughout the stadiums, so this looks like a case of people buying tickets and then not using them, either because they’re trying to get on a season-ticket waitlist for when the teams’ new stadium opens in 2020, or because tickets are cheap enough that they figure they’ll buy a season strip and only go when there’s a good opponent and there’s nothing good on TV that day. (Or maybe just when a team they actually care about comes to town: The hottest Chargers ticket on StubHub is vs. the Oakland Raiders.) Also, by one estimate half the maybe 20,000 fans if you’re being generous at yesterday’s Chargers-Miami Dolphins game were rooting for the Dolphins, which apparently was a problem at times in San Diego, too, but still.

None of this is a crisis just yet: It can take a while to build a fan base for a relocated team, and obviously the big push is for fans to go see the teams at their new stadium in three years. Still, when you’re trying to charge record seat-license prices, you really want to see pent-up excitement about your team, and that’s not exactly what’s going on here. There’s been talk for years that L.A. football fans have been happy just to watch the best games of the week on TV without having a home rooting attachment; if so, the no-shows could be a sign that it’s going to be tough to build actual fan bases for the Rams and Chargers, beyond just having games be a thing people just want to go to when their actual favorite team from somewhere else shows up. More data points are needed, so let’s keep an eye on this throughout the season.


35 comments on “Rams, Chargers continue to play home games in relative privacy

  1. For the first half of last season the Rams were getting about 800k local viewers per game, which is about double what the Lakers — who are the next most popular local team — draws.

    • I guess the relevant comparison would be what Rams games are drawing on TV compared to the “game of the week” that LA got before these teams stormed into their TV Guide, no?

      • “Nielsen reports that 8 percent of homes in the LA market tuned in to Fox’s NFL telecasts this season — down from 8.3 percent in 2015, when the Rams were in St. Louis. These figures are for all NFL games shown on Fox, not just those of the Rams.”

        http://www.stltoday.com/sports/football/professional/an-astounding-turn-after-rams-moved-fewer-people-watched-the/article_677f2d53-d614-5968-8930-bf4180d34ebc.html

        • If nothing else, now we know why the NFL as a whole wasn’t super-eager to get a team back in L.A. until Kroenke started the race to move there.

          • In 1994, NFL on FOX averaged a respectable 13.4 rating in Los Angeles, and Los Angeles was FOX’s #17 market, despite the hometown Rams being 4-12 with one foot out the door to St. Louis

            By 2010, after carrying “the best national games” year after year, that FOX rating had plummeted to 8.6 – a 36% drop – and Los Angeles was only FOX’s #50 market.

            http://www.sportsbusinessdaily.com/Journal/Issues/2011/09/05/In-Depth/Television.aspx

            Of course ratings are going to take a short-term hit when you bring local teams back (those fans aren’t going to all come back right away, unless the teams are instantly really good), but history indicates that the NFL does better in Los Angeles with local teams than with “the best national games”.

          • Also: 8.3 to 8 is a 3.6% drop. Nationally, NFL ratings dropped 8%. So the other way to spin this is that FOX replaced the best games in the country in 2015 with the awful 4-12 Rams in 2016, and ratings rose 5% relative to the national average.

  2. It still blows my mind how they are so determined to have teams in LA. Its a place like Miami which has great weather and many many other things to do during a Sunday off. Spending ALL THAT money on a new stadium is crazy since it looks like it won’t be sold out each year.

    In stead of moving the Chargers to LA they should have left them in San Diego and move the Raiders back to LA where they have somewhat of a fan base and not to Vegas where you will never have a fan base with all the visitors to Vegas going to games to cheer for the away team.

    All that money that could go to do better things and they feel they need to build these elaborate stadiums. Why do they need to be so fancy?

    Does it have a field to play on?
    Does it have seats?
    Does it have food stands?
    Does it have restrooms?
    Does it have a locker room?

    That’s all you need. When I went to games I didn’t worry about a 5 star restaurant or bars. I went to watch football.

    All these politicians make these deals and all the money goes to the multimillionaires and nothing to the tax paying public. Yes it creates jobs while being built but the jobs after that are not career jobs they are food servers and bartenders. I am not putting down anyone who works those honest paying jobs but when they say they are adding more jobs they’re jobs that don’t pay well. People in this great county have to and open their eyes and stop letting ALL POLITICIANS blow smoke up their butts.

    Last night they were talking about how great the new stadium in Atlanta was (I refuse to call it by its name). Did they play a game there? Yes that’s all we saw. Now they will Implode the Georgia Dome which I’m sure hasn’t been paid off yet. And that stadium is not really that old.

    So when can we expect a new stadium in atlanta? 10, 15 years top? The NFL hasn’t to stop this.

    And look at St Louis and Oakland… They got burned twice.

    One last thing…

    How can a fan from Oakland go to a game knowing they are leaving is a few years they wouldn’t get one red cent from me.

    Hey NFL owners and commissioner… GO “F” yourself you greedy SOBs.

    Go Dolphins!!!

  3. Njbb, the Texas Rangers were “committed” to building a $200M hotel next to the stadium, and had broken ground with construction underway whilst campaigning they needed a new stadium. It doesnt make sense that youll move unless theres a $800M stadium given to you while youre already building ancillary businesses. Id say that Oakland must have some relatives in Texas, but at least they’re smart enough to say, enough!

  4. No surprise. As the Dons/Chargers/Rams/Raiders all learned, LA is a graveyard for pro football, but plenty of folks still believe that with so many people living in that area, enough of them will buy seats to NFL games to fill stadia there when history has indicated otherwise time and again. Meanwhile, the stadium a hour to the south in the fifth-most populous county in the county (where 57,025 people per game still showed up to watch a lame-duck team in 2016) sits empty on Sundays. Sheer genius.

    • San Diego has the same issue as Los Angeles in selling tickets, so it’s not really the money tree the NFL wants.

      Basically in Southern California there are too many transplants who’d rather go to the beach, instead of fight 4 hours of traffic to go to a game that’s easier to watch on TV. Especially since Beach Weather in LA and SD is basically year round (except for maybe a single weekend in Feb).

      Also since raising taxes in California is pretty much impossible due to Prop 13, the cities aren’t really interested in throwing money at a new stadium when they have so many other budgetary constraints.

      • And the transplants — and their sons — remain fans of the teams from where they came. Sports bars filled with Giants, Steelers and Patriots fans

        • This is correct, but being transplants means they’re usually only interested in at most 1 ticket a year for AFC West opponents, and more likely a single ticket every 6 to 8 years (i.e. when their team comes to town).

          It’s not enough fill a stadium a week in and week out.

  5. I was at the Chargers game Sunday and this is disingenuous. Yes, the pricey sideline seats were about half empty at kickoff, but fans did trickle in during the first quarter and by the second quarter the stadium was about 90% full. It’s also important to note that all the cheaper seats (corners, end zones, and bleachers) were mostly packed at kickoff.

    • That’s good to know, thanks for the first-hand report. And also makes more sense given the StubHub prices, which are $100+ for the Chargers and lower than USC for many Rams games.

      • For a market that was supposed to be starved for NFL action? It sure is surprising that they can’t fill a stadium 1/3rd the usual size.

    • In my experience, that’s the situation during Galaxy games too when paid/distributed attendance is 25,000+: The pricey “club seats” near midfield are half-empty until the game’s well underway, but the rest of the stadium is mostly packed.

  6. It will probably work out in the long run. Still, it’s good to remind sports owners that fandom is a cultural thing thus relocation has costs. But The city of commerce stadium is privately financed, I think, so I’ll save my hate for the Texas Rangers and Arizona Dbacks.

  7. I’m skeptical about the long term interest in the NFL in Los Angeles (at least as far as ticket buying and local team support goes).

    That said, this is the long game being played. I doubt Kroenke or Spanos really care about the ticket sales totals in the short term. Expect to see heavy discounting if seats stay empty for too long, though (it looks bad on tv).

    I’m loathe to say anything positive about either owner’s decision to relocate. Kroenke appears to be using his own money at least… there, how’s that for upside? Nevertheless, I think both realize they are engaged in a 10-15 year program to build support for what are new sports options in their local markets.

    While the Raiders managed to build a following in LA (though, as noted elsewhere, not the kind of following the NFL is courting these days), as I recall the Rams were never a guaranteed sellout in any of their homes unless they were winning 10+ games a season and figured to be in the NFC championship game.

    The Chargers for all intents and purposes have no history in LA, having left after a single poorly attended season in 1960. This is less a return than a fresh start, in other words.

    • A covered, climate-controlled “all the frills” stadium will make a difference in terms of unsold tickets, but I think one of the interesting long-term aspects is that there seems to be a large number of people willing to buy season tickets and either not use them or put them up on the secondary market. LA will always have transplants, and will always have people from all over who will use their team playing there as an excuse for taking a long weekend trip. Imagine what the Coliseum without Washington’s fans there. I don’t think this is something that will change. Honestly, I think the Vegas experiment will probably be even more extreme because the casinos will gobble up season tickets and package trips around visiting fans.

      • That’s a very inefficient way to sell tickets from a team perspective. They want to sell tickets to corporations and people who are going to renew year after year. Still, its better than depending on the locals, or probably on the ST. Louis and Oakland markets.

        Probably underlines the fact that going to NFL games is becoming something people don’t want to do more than once or twice a year. So maybe this is a good model?

        • From what I gather, Stan Kroenke moved the Rams because he wants to be in LA. An LA based team will sell be worth more and will ultimately sell for far more. It was a heartless business move. He was going to go about the motions just enough so that the other owners went along. Given that, I don’t think there was really any concern about how LA will respond or how tickets get sold once there. Dean Spanos tried to call San Diego’s bluff, got caught. He now has to live with an established Charger fan base in SoCal that is turned off by him, and being located in a city that otherwise isn’t all that interested. I don’t think the tourist angle is what they were going for, but might be what they are stuck with. As for Las Vegas, I can’t see any way around Davis half his stadium there will be from out of town, but we will see that play out down the line.

          • Yeah I still don’t get how the Rams will be worth so much more in LA that its worth spending $2 billion more on a stadium than they would have been if they took St Louis’s offer. League revenues are the same in either market. Local revenues are determined by fan interest and so far LA hasn’t exhibited all that much.

            As for the Chargers, I think they are going to have to move again. Not back to SD because they won’t build them a stadium, but maybe St Louis.

  8. You may not have realized it but this was the master plan all along.

    Can’t we owners charge more for “relative privacy”?
    Of course we can. After all, we are running out of other things to charge people for (I keep bringing up the exit fee for allowing fans to leave the stadium, but so far no supporters on that one… being a trailblazer is hard sometimes)

    BTW, Piggy, Talk to that York guy will you? I understand he’s handing out FREE WATER at 49er games… Doesn’t he read the memos or what?

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