I recently had an email exchange with James Burns, retired state judge and former University of Hawaii athletics booster club (Koa Anuenue) president. Here are some of his thoughts on the current state of UH sports, specifically its financial status:
Is pay per view revenue enough to make up for the lost Koa Anuenue ticket and parking money and the lack of live spectators?
All decisions follow the answer to one question. How good will the team be
for the predictable future? Top 20? Top 50? Top 100?
The better the team, the more the folks will be motivated to attend.
Pay per view revenue is one consideration. Koa Anuenue money and live
spectators are at least as important. If you constantly have a below
average team and live TV, expect your Koa Anuenue money to decrease and
having an embarrassing number of live spectators.
In my view, filling the stands and Koa Anuenue making big money from tickets and parking is the priority.
There is no doubt the fans have been spoiled by live TV. If live TV is not
available, they won’t change overnight.
If you have a competitive team and no live TV, many folks will return and
new folks will join in.
Those who discontinued their Koa Anuenue tickets will suffer the
consequences of their choice. Consider allowing them some priority when
they seek to purchase available Koa Anuenue tickets and parking.
Currently, if you want to watch the game at the Stadium, there is no need to
have any kind of season ticket. Buying a regular seat ticket for each game
is cheaper. Then you can go sit in one of the empty Koa Anuenue seats.
Listen, back when pay per view began it didn’t take a genius to figure out that over time it could very well compromise game attendance and now that its obvious that it has along with other factors one wonders why UH continues with it?
Hey, all this talk about closing off the upper section of the stadium, ostensibly to cut clean up costs as well as conceal sparce attendance , is in my opinion just more evidence of innert and unimaginative thinking at UH.
They should reduce prices and fill those upper levels…to forward with new thinking, not retreating in order to preserve a failed policy. Dump pay per view—-put people in the seats instead.
A competitive team should be the first priority. Dwindling attendance and corporate sponserships are a direct result of a poor showing on the field. Many of us season ticket holders can’t give our tickets away for free when we can’t make a game and talk of non-renewals of season tickets and PPV are rampant. PPV could go away on it’s own if UH stays the course of putting out a medicore product on Saturday nights.
A better team showing on the field would indeed improve attendance, and I’m betting that is coming soon. But a better business model followed by the A.D.’s office is vital as well, an reinforcing failure is not the way to go. Pay per view affected our game crowds long before the decline began in the Chow era.
Media time outs are a big problem. They stop the flow of the game for the players. They take the fans out of the game. They extend the length of the game. They make “being there” feel artificial. UH is walking a fine line between fan enjoyment and fiscal needs with its TV deals. Go Bows!
There is an impact here that has been actually happening for years, which no one is talking about, but should. UH is not developing a new generation (literally) of fans and the resulting fan base. And, the management philosophy and staffing of UH, with it’s 3-5 year turnover cycles, have led to a virtual complete disregard of creating any sort of base upon which future interest can be built.
The “moving” (actually “taking away”) of traditional season ticket holders’ seats, and pay per view did direct damage to attendance, interest, loyalty to and ardor for the school and its teams. BUT, it also priced out the kids at the Stadium and in living rooms. The must pay to watch approach meant people, particularly parents who might have dragged their kids along to games, or made staying up late to watch free replays and play the “don’t tell me the score game” fun vanished all at once.
UH fandom WAS NOT PREVIOUSLY BUILT upon the cynical “be a fan and you get something”, or worse, “be a supporter and you get more than the other guy” approach(es) employed today. It was built upon traditions, generational pass downs and inculcation of interest, and access. The football team in particular was THERE to be experienced, and available for people to build an interest in.
Today, the only people who get to participate in the suspense of a game outcome, much less SEE for tasting purposes the product, are those who pay in the first place. Yeah, yeah, there are next day replays, but those are Church and NFL days. And, it’s one thing to cut oneself off from game results for a couple of hours, and quite another to do so for a whole news cycle.
And, when the choice is to watch any number of games – for FREE – on the networks or ESPN – that actually mean something in BCS bowl hunts or national rankings, UH games are being easily missed.
I would be very, very surprised if even 10% of Hawaii’s kids new the name of even one UH player if asked today. I’d be very surprised if a common question being asked by all UH fans nowadays when thinking about buying a ticket, or making a ppv buy, isn’t, “is it worth it”, with the decision being, “not really”, with less and less remorse or sense of missing something.
There are a host of other problems that UH sports suffers from. But, the big one is that it killed it’s base, and it isn’t creating a new one. Now, it’s fans are either those die hards holding on, or johnny come lately corporate types plied with promises of marketing bonanzas, only to learn that there are marginal and dwindling returns on these advertising efforts.
UH needs to take not one, not two, but probably three or four steps backwards, and it needs to re-connect to the community.
If there is ANY hope, UH needs to commit to taking BIG losses on per ticket prices, as well as TV revenues (by agreeing to eliminate ppv) for one or two years in order to re-build and establish new interest. Under the current operational paradigm, it is sliding into oblivion and that is predictable in both the short and long terms. There is NOTHING, not even winning (and going to that “great” goal the Hawaii Bowl), that will help that situation except for making things more accessible.
I grew up (in the 70’s and 80’s) with Saturdays in the Fall spent at Aloha Stadium. Sat with Dad, then met my friends at halftime for a walking lap around the concourse. Because of that deep tradition, I continue to go to every UH home game with Dad seated on one side of me, and my son on the other. My son is less inclined to want to go these days because it pains him to watch losses and his friends aren’t at the Stadium.
With an eroding culture of UH Football being the place to be (in person), the attendance/revenue/fan support situation will get even worse in the future. Kill pay-per-view now to save UH Athletics’ future.
Also, Judge Burns’ views will always deserve respect for what he himself has done for Hawaii. But I respectfully disagree with his analysis that “winning” will either substantially increase ticket sales, or the Koa Anuenue take.
People simply do not trust UH to have a predictable good season. SO, season ticket sales will continue to languish.
But, even if UH does start out with a bang in a given season, the tail end of the schedule only might, a BIG might, draw bigger crowds. But there has to be something better than the Hawaii Bowl on the horizon. That’s what happened even in 2007.
The crowds will generally not go back unless they “can”, not if UH wins. Accessibility ticket pricing wise, accessibility for interest building purposes, and most of all, accessibility for interest RE-building purposes is key.
And those things affect the Koa Anuenue take. People will give to something popular. People will give to be a part of something the community supports. People will want to be associated by giving so that they can be known to many as givers, not by a narrow group of today’s watching fans, however they might be defined.
Also, UH needs to stop appearing to only chase the big bucks. Jay has given signals he understands that, but not enough. It seems to me that Koa Anuenue AND Na Koa themselves need to do some major PR work to avoid the impressions they are too exclusive (Koa) or a bunch of territorial obnoxious jock sniffers (Na Koa). In either case, the reaction we see today in downward trending donation revenues is fiercely and predictably local, and a sign of our societal movement toward increased awareness and independent thinking (not necessarily progress).
Bottom line, if the community isn’t interested in UH sports, then there is little incentive for the money to go where people aren’t interested. What’s the incentive angle absent being known to masses as a generous contributor (which doesn’t happen if there’s no broad interest)? Love of what UH has become? Love of the memory of MRC Greenwood and Virginia Hinshaw? Love of the tradition of Frazier, Donovan and Jay? Love of the “lovable” Norm Chow? Hope of scoring good seats at the Neil Diamond concert (no doubt something someone on the Koa Anuenue Board would think is a good idea)?
Unless UH reconnects to the community broadly, a donation to Koa Anuenue has to be pretty much pure philanthropy – no return on pocketbook through marketing value or ego. And, sadly, pure philanthropy doesn’t exist much anymore.
There has to be a paradigm shift at UH in order to have success again. Unfortunately, it will be costly to do, and even more costly to not do.
Note also. June Jones was pretty much a winner. He delivered exciting football. Throughout his tenure, the season ticket and attendance trends were generally downward. But, his tenure was also marked by re-shuffling of season ticket holders’ seats, premiums on season tickets and ppv, and the resultant restrictions on access and dissipation of the fan base.
Actually I agree with much of what has been said here. And by the way it was JJ and his insistence in dropping the same night replay of the games resulting in the even more deleterious effects on U H football by the introduction of ppv that really made the measurable difference in attendance.
Unfortunate consequences of that, introduction of beer sales, soaring and absurd prices for concessions and finally the palpable and really sickening atmosphere of “make money at all cost”….the hell with people that is pervasive today, will kill UH football if something does not change. Someone mentioned the TV timeouts and the effects on game momentum aqua a could agree more!
The real question is why does everything at UHM move at a snail’s pace? Judge Burns should know the answer: The inclusion of union infrastructure and the useless establishment of select committees to process hiring and firing of UH coaches. Dump those requirements and allow the market place to take care of the rest….as for the posters that lament about rebuilding our fan base through limited PAY-for-view access, that is a legit consideration, although UH was packing in the crowd and televising at one time. The bottom line is winning. And we cant do that with leadership that needs more time to evaluate coaching performance given 3-victories in two years. Especially when making an initial pledge to eradicate mediocrity! Shibai? You bet.
Wining plays a role in this but the larger issue is the fan experience at Aloha Stadium vs watching on an HD TV at home, whether UH games are on pay per view or traditional cable television. Frankly, the Aloha Stadium experience falls far short. Traffic getting to and from the stadium is always terrible, the stadium is a relic from the 1970s, and unless you’re sitting right near the field the it’s darn hard to see what’s happening.
Watching at home means I have a gorgeous HD view from my comfy couch, my friends around me, my smartphone or tablet if I want to tweet or FB the game, a nice bathroom, and I can change the channel during breaks in the on the field action or halftime.
I used to think a new stadium would solve the attendance problem. Now, I doubt it.
I used to think a new stadium would solve this problem. Now