Are NFL mandated locker room cameras a step too far?


The NFL may get more of a headache than it bargained for after requiring teams to install cameras in the locker room.

Ever wanted more than a glimpse inside an NFL locker room? Me neither, but fans are going to get that chance in 2013 thanks to an NFL initiative that will install cameras in each and every home locker room around the league.

The move is mandatory, and is part of the NFL's ongoing efforts to improve the in-game experience for stadium-going fans. Video from inside the players locker rooms will be shown on the scoreboards at the venue and certain team-specific apps, according to the Associated Press.

Eric Grubman, the NFL's executive vice president, announced the move during a panel discussion at the IMG World Congress of Sports.

It's kind of ironic that television and technology, two things so central to the NFL's popularity, actually take away from ticket sales themselves. Again, why spend close to a thousand bucks to take your family to the game, pay for parking, and buy delicious snacks from Aramark vendors when you can watch each and every NFL game in high-def alongside whoever you choose in the comfort of your own home.

Stadium attendance fell from 2008 through 2011 all over the NFL. Numbers ticked back up in 2012, by half a percentage point according to a report from CNN Money. Meanwhile, television revenues are set to jump by some 60 percent in 2014 when new network deals take effect.

So why is the NFL so concerned about ticket sales that it wants to give fans the chance to see their favorite players in the throes of a pretty intense towel fight? Simple. Players get 55 percent of media revenues under the collective bargaining agreement, but teams get a much better share of the pie when it comes to money spent in the stadiums.

Ticket sales do go into the shared revenue pool, but there are exemptions for things like stadium credits and complimentary tickets. Owners do not have to share money generated from concession sales, luxury boxes, merchandise sold at the game and other income generated by bringing people into the buildings themselves.

The correct term is "retained revenue." All of the efforts to enhance the stadium experience can essentially be viewed as efforts to enhance the retained revenue for the league's owners.

In some cases, that works about like you would expect. For instance, the league is bringing wireless internet to stadiums for mobile phone crazed fans. On the other hand, a move like mandating locker room camera feeds confuses the issue, since that in-game Easter egg has a pretty direct connection to the players themselves.

Locker room video feeds have not gone unnoticed by the NFL Players Association. George Atallah, NFLPA Assistant Executive Director of External Affairs, took the matter public with a Friday morning tweet.

You can understand why players might be concerned. Sure, the team will be in control of when and what video from the locker room gets shown. It still makes for a pretty big intrusion into the business of players, not to mention their privacy.

A bigger issue comes back to the revenue question. If players in the locker room are being put upon to help increase retained revenue streams, at what point are they entitled to ask for a share?

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