SVG Sit-Down: Houston Texans President Jamey Rootes
As president of the NFL’s Houston Texans, Jamey Rootes is responsible for all business functions of the club. Since joining the team, he has overseen its efforts to secure stadium-naming rights and sponsorships, coordinated radio- and TV-broadcasting relationships, engineered the club’s successful ticket- and suite-sales campaigns, led the creation and launch of the team’s identity, and developed the team’s highly acclaimed customer-service strategy.
SVG recently sat down with Rootes to discuss Reliant Stadium’s new record-breaking videoboard, the Texans’ approach to in-venue video, how the team reacts to fan input, and his thoughts on the final product.
What was behind the Houston Texans’ decision to upgrade the videoboard at Reliant Stadium and to upgrade to a board that’s quite a statement?
First of all, it was on the normal replacement cycle for our board. It was 11 years old, so it was about the time you would normally replace [the videoboard]. Some people do it a little sooner, you can stretch it a little longer, but, if you’re going to remain state-of-the-art, that’s about the right timing.
You’ve seen over the last few years a trend nationally — and it’s particularly pervasive in Texas, for whatever reason — of these giant videoboards. You look in Dallas and the size of the Cowboys’ board [at AT&T Stadium], University of Texas’s is the largest in a college football stadium, the Houston Rockets’ is the largest in an NBA arena, the Astros’ is one of the largest in Major League Baseball.
What we wanted to do was be in line with what is state-of-the-art [and] where [the technology] is headed. You’re going to have this investment for a decade, decade plus, [so we wanted to] build it with some room for growth, if you will; kind of jump the curve a bit and that’s where you get to this size.
At the end of the day, all of us who do live sporting events — particularly in the National Football League because of the amazing job that our broadcast partners are doing in presenting the game [on] HD large-screen televisions at home — [know that] the viewing experience at home is really pretty good. This massive videoboard presentation [is] not why you’d come to the game — you come to the game to be with others, the bonding, the rituals, and the energy — but now there’s not this penalty [of a fan’s thinking] I get all of this from the live experience but my video visual experience is not as good as it is at home. We’re giving you the best of both worlds. That was really at the core of the decision-making process for us: how do we give the fans the best of both worlds.
We’re seeing these massive boards pop up in every professional league. What, in your opinion, is behind this recent push to the gigantic scoreboard?
At home, we now are getting crystal-clear presentation through the quality of the HD product, great broadcasting capability, and technology. … One of the primary reasons is, are massive at home and, when you walk into the stadium, you want to see something that is somewhat similar to what I have when I’m viewing at home, [where] you have a high-definition flat-screen, massive presentation, and so the in-stadium is catching up to what everyone’s doing in their homes.
We’ve got this massive video in the center [of the board], which is twice as big as our board was before in terms of square footage. It’s also significantly wider than [our previous videoboard], which gives us real estate to do what our fans told us they want. In addition to video replays and live video, they want to know the pulse of the game all the time: the stats, yards rushing, yards passing, turnovers, third downs. They want out-of-town scores up there on a rotating basis all the time to be able to, at a glance, know how are the other teams in our division [and] across the league are doing. And then fantasy stats: as I’m watching your game, how [are] my players on my fantasy team doing?
There are a lot of other things we can do. When we asked our fans, [they said] I want loads of replays, I want in-game stats, I want out-of-town scores, I want fantasy stats. OK, [we responded], we got that; what else? (Laughs) They kind of scratch their heads [and say], well, whatever else you want to do but don’t clutter up the game too much! That was another interesting insight; [fans saying] I didn’t come to see your videoboards, I came to watch what’s happening on the field. So don’t inundate me. Just accentuate the primary reason for me to come to this game.
That brings up an interesting point. How do you program the board and take advantage of the real estate without overwhelming your audience?
We try to experience the game. I’ve got my video-production team, but the balance of us in the stadium experiencing the game, at least at times, like a fan. If somebody sees something, [they might say] maybe that didn’t work so well. We ask our fans regularly [to] tell us about [their] experience: what worked, what didn’t work, how can we do it better? As long as you listen and you react consistently [to your customers], you slowly but surely get to something that fits perfectly what the fans are looking for.
And now you have the largest HD video display in the world. Was that a conscious decision: to break records, to be the largest?
It wasn’t really a conscious decision going in, but [we] started to look at the real estate that we had available to us, where the pricing trends were for the technology. That’s another thing that’s driving these larger boards. You don’t hear a lot of people talking about it, but, just as [with] any technology over time, the price comes down; it certainly isn’t cheap by any stretch of the imagination, but you can afford to stretch yourself a little more than in the past. When we saw the real estate available and the value of what we could get for our money, it started to lead us towards something that looked to be in a record-breaking realm, if you will. You might as well go ahead and be bigger, right? (Laughs) Once we looked at what was right for us, [we were], like, Oh wow, this is the biggest. That’s pretty cool. It wasn’t our going-in intention, but, if, at the end of the day, we were a couple of feet short, I’m sure we would have stretched ourselves.
With two preseason games and Sunday’s home opener under your belt, how do you think the videoboard looks?
Fantastic. The reaction from the fans has been really spectacular. We’re learning, and we’re getting better as we go along, and we’re really kind of fine-tuning the presentation to meet what our fans are looking for, but I think the reaction has been really outstanding.