What Do Museums Have That Sporting Events Don’t?

About 140 million people in the U.S. will attend a major-league sporting event this year, according to this NPR article.

But as the same article says, museums will draw about 850 million attendees this year.

So why do more people make trips to museums than to sports games? Well, they are obviously cheaper, and more abundant, but it may also have to do with how each experience translates onto a TV or computer screen.

Forty-one percent of sports fans surveyed by the Consumer Electronics Association and the Sports Video Group said that sports programming in HD is almost as good as the live event.

And with the likelihood of a sports recession, even more fans may be opting for televised games over expensive tickets.

Virtual museums, on the other hand, serve as teasers and actually drive people to real-life exhibits, because, as Kevin Guilfoile of the Museum of Online Museums told NPR:

Some things just inherently, aesthetically you need to be in the presence of them. … I don’t think there’s any substitute to going to a museum and looking at a Chagall.

So is HDTV a threat to live sports games, and if so, how can live sports compete?

Maybe Fenway Park, whose ticket sales for Red Sox games are falling, can take a cue from museums: Dustin Pedroia posing behind plexiglass? Or, better yet, put Plax‘s gunshot trousers on display in the new Giants Stadium?


What Do Museums Have That Sports Games Don't?

-Social Value


Only pro sports considered? What about college, high school, little league, etc?


The Red Sox have sold out every game for years so you should more accurately say the demand for playoff tix has dropped after 2 World Series wins in a few years.


You can learn something in a museum. Last thing I learned watching a football game was, in the immortal words of Madden: "Football is a game best played outside." Gee, really!

So, would some smart economist like to answer a question for me? If pro-sports are so lucrative, why do teams have to get municipalities and corporations to build their facilities?

Sports are lame

Spectator sports are a remnant of a stupider era?

We wish anyway ;-)


What does a museum have that a sports game doesn't? Control.

When I go to a museum, I decide what to see and when I'm done. I even get to decide what order I see things in.

When I go to a sports game, I'm trapped with hundreds or thousands of other people and we have no control at all over what order things happen in or when we'll be done. Sure, we can leave early, but we can't make the ending of the game happen any sooner. We're passive lumps - so why not be a passive lump at home in front of the TV?

Bobby G

No commercials at live events... not really at least.


I doubt many elementary schools take kids on field trips to professional football games. The cost alone would be prohibitive. My class did however, take a field trip to the Baseball Hall of Fame as a kid... but technically, that's a museum... a very well attended museum at that.


Sports can over come this. The feeling of being in a stadium cheering for your team alongside people you may never see again in your life is priceless. Maybe U.S. citizens are not as passionate about their teams as they think they are. In Latin America and Europe recession or TV can't stop people from going to the stadium. For example in the D.R. in hard-times for the economy you can see an increase in the sales of tickets. Sports can overcome anything in my opinion because they bring together family, friends, and in world level competition, entire nations.

Arvin Bautista

A lot of those visiting museums are tourists. I wouldn't be all that interested in going to a local sports game unless they were playing my local team, but I'd certainly consider checking out a museum.

Also museums are open most days of the week, constantly accepting guests during open hours, while most sports venues have very strict hours, and most are only operating once or twice a week.

travis ormsby

It would be interesting to know how many of those 850 million museum attendees were students on field trips.

Also, including numbers for the Podunk County Historic Tree Stump Interpretive Center while discounting numbers for minor league, semi-pro, and less popular professional sports (soccer, lacrosse) seems like stacking the deck.


What museums have that sports games don't: accessibility. Not only are museums cheaper, but if a team played 363 days a year, the numbers would change. So, for that matter, would ticket prices.


Sports games are much more likely to have repeat attendees (i.e. season ticket holders, local fans) since every game is different. Museums on the other hand will draw far more one time visitors. I would suspect that the total number of viewings would go to sports events hands down.


Do the numbers of museum visitors include the number of children dragged to the museum on field trips? My guess is that without museums being subsidized by school field trips, the number would be more like 80 million...

clyde McPhat

By the way, the reference to the Sox not selling tickets was for the RE-SALE of the tickets. The games were already sold out. Not an apples to apples thing really. And Joe Baseball FAn wasn't the guy paying through the nose for the scalper's tickets to begin with. It was the guy with the expense account taking his business partner to the game.

BTW, Mets and Yankees together drew 8 million in NYC this year.



Because they can. No one has stopped them for doing it yet. As long as another city willing to accept the team and build them a new stadium then they will always have that to hold over their current municipality.

Marty, Chicago, Il

What Do Museums Have That Sports Games Don't?

A lower entrance price maybe? Have you tried to buy a ticket to a major league sports event lately? Tickects can run in the hundreds of dollars.


Frequency is the answer. There are only so many games played, only so often and for so many hours, and you are limited by seating capacity. Also, there are likely more museums than professional sporting venues. Chicago has a handful of professional sporting venues, but 100s of museums.


First, why are we only considering major-league sporting events? If going to the local museum counts, going to the local high-school basketball game ought to, too.

According to wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_attendance_figures_at_domestic_professional_sports_leagues), it appears that the total attendance of the professional sports leagues is on the order of 100m, and the average attendance at a game is pretty close to the average stadium capacity.

What do museums have that pro sports don't? More seats!

Kevin H

I'm not so sure that a photo of most of the world's paintings would be just as good as seeing them in person. There are certainly some Museums like the Tech Museum in San Jose that are definately experience orriented rather than passive viewing, and sculpture definately looses some of it's apeal in 2D, but my guess is on the hard economics of the situation driving the higher attendence. Massively more supply. In a given geographical area you can go to a museum every day 9-5 during 300ish day a year, while you might have 3 sports teams that play at differnt times of year, once or twice per week, and half of those games played somehwere else.

Maybe the best finding of this line of reserach is that a Museum TV channel might be highly profitable!