In our last post, we examined overall attendance for NCAA football. This time around we take a look at individual team attendance. Unsurprisingly the best teams with the largest numbers of alumni have the best attendance rates. Alabama leads in total attendance for the past five years (4,225,443), which is to be expected given that they have been competing for a playoff spot every year recently. Ohio State is second with 4,003.658, while Tennessee’s attendance seems to have outperformed its ranking at 3,845,002. Penn State (3,805,806) and Michigan (3,727,339) round out the top five.
With fall fast approaching we turn to analyses of football. Since high school football
is played on Friday nights, college on Saturdays, and the NFL on Sundays, we follow
that order of presentation and let the big boys headline the publication of findings.
The story of individual NBA team attendance is less straightforward than that of baseball. Since attendance hovers around max capacity at 93% and arena sizes are the smallest of the major sports, much depends on the capacity of the home venue for each team in addition to the usual factors such as team success and market size. Thus, the team with the largest venue—the Chicago Bulls, who built the United Center during the peak of Michael Jordan’s popularity—has the highest total attendance and the highest average attendance.
In fact, the 14 teams with the highest total attendance yield the identical order in terms of average attendance. These data suggest that other attendance statistics should be used to asses live game team interest. For example, the Bulls have the 19th lowest minimum game attendance at 17,462. To see the full data on NBA game attendance along with more insights, view the previous installment of FanWide’s data science blog series.
The story of individual NBA team attendance is less straightforward than that of
baseball. Since attendance hovers around max capacity at 93% and arena sizes are
the smallest of the major sports, much depends on the capacity of the home venue
for each team in addition to the usual factors such as team success and market size.
With the NBA Final recently completed, and the NBA itself is enjoying new heights in
popularity, the Warriors are one of the most popular teams playing against one of
the most popular athletes in the world in LeBron James, we begin our series of posts
on stadium attendance and interest with an analyses of NBA regular season game
attendance. (We opted for regular season attendance because playoffs games are
almost always sold out.)
In our last post, we explored the attendance patterns across major league baseball. In this post, we take a closer look at the attendance performance of individual teams. As the data in the table show, the Los Angeles Dodgers have the highest average attendance in baseball the past three years (46,230) followed by the St. Louis Cardinals (42,854) and the San Francisco Giants (41,303). The Tampa Bay Rays have the lowest average attendance the last three years at 15,650.
The ticket sales departments of the high average teams are undoubtedly pleased, but even better than a high average is a consistently high average, or put differently, low variance in attendance. The Giants have the lowest attendance variance of any team in baseball the last three years, though the Cardinals and Dodgers are also in the top five. After all, it’s hard to maintain a high average without regularly selling a lot of tickets. But having a high average and low variance suggests that home team fans are supportive of their team no matter who is playing—arguably a higher degree of interest.
Stadium attendance is, of course, the oldest form of fan interest and occurs whether a game is televised or not. So, as we contend in our previous post, in-stadium attendance is ultimately the highest fidelity signal available for measurement. Each stadium has a fixed capacity and standing room only ticket sales are rarely sold with the exception of the Dallas Cowboys after the construction of their home venue in 2009. Even with standing room tickets, Cowboys stadium capacity is capped at 105,000. Because one body fits in one seat on almost all cases, attendance is thus a reliable benchmark to compare television viewership. (We acknowledge that not everyone who bought a tickets makes it to the game and many teams count promotional tickets—many of which go unused—in their reported attendance numbers, but we assume that most teams that do not sell out every game do this to roughly similar degrees which makes for a bit a noise in the data, but otherwise doesn’t completely destroy our model.)
Cord cutting—the process of cancelling paid TV service—which began in roughly 2010 has continued to proliferate to the tune of 3.4% of subscribers cancelling year over year during Q4 2017. These cancellations have likely affected the mediated viewership of major sports since sports programming is a significant driver of cable subscriptions. Available viewership data from the various leagues cut in both directions—NFL television viewership is down almost 10 percent season over season in 2017, but NBA viewership is up by upwards of 20 percent. So it is unclear whether cord cutting represents a decline in interest the sports themselves or merely paid television viewing of certain sports.