Congratulations to the Atlanta Braves as the 2021 World Series Champions. When the Braves lost the services of Marcell Ozuna back in June when his wife charged him with domestic violence, the Braves were languishing in the NL East standings and then when they lost Ronald Acuña, Jr. in July, I thought the Braves were out of the running to make the playoffs. However, a flurry of in-season acquisitions and some great pitching down the stretch put them in the playoffs where the team just caught fire. The team and the Front Office deserve their accolades.
Diametrically opposite sentiments should go out today to Henry Ruggs II. He has been released by the Las Vegas Raiders after a fatal car accident where Ruggs had pending felony DUI charges and in an incident where the police say Ruggs was driving at 156 mph. According to Las Vegas authorities, in addition to the excessive speed – – no, I do not know how the police determined that – – they say that Ruggs blood alcohol was twice the legal limit and just for giggles, they found a loaded gun in the car he was driving.
Earlier this week, I got an email from a reader who is in suburban Paris, France for the Fall season. He has subscribed to ESPN Player so that he can watch college football while outside the US. Here is the meat of his communication:
“Well, as I watch the ACC network in particular (as well as other games of interest) it seems that at every exchange of possession they break for a commercial. Having been physically present at the recent [UNC/Duke] game I noted that the network official on the field that holds up the digital sign to show the length for a commercial generally informed us that we would sit for up to at least 3 minutes while someone sold beer or gold coins or whatever!!
How in the world can any football team develop any rhythm with these sorts of breaks? Also, how stupid of me to have to sit and stare at a basically blank screen telling me that the game is on commercial break? In addition, since the ESPN Player app doesn’t even show commercial content I’m treated to a graphic and truly obnoxious music.
“Anyway…I know it’s all about money and I’m about to swear it all off (if only I could) but did want to raise and rant about this to you thinking that your vast audience might find some empathy and concern for the same issue…and that you might have some pithy thoughts to share.
“If not, that’s OK, I feel better on this Tuesday late afternoon here in suburban Paris in having gotten this off my chest. Of course, I do have the option here of waiting until the games etc. are over and I can watch them on replay on Sunday W/O any interruption and maybe already knowing the outcome.”
There is certainly not a lot in that message that needs to be contradicted – – because the reader is correct. I and others have noted that college football games are now trending toward game times that range from 3 hours and 45 minutes to 4 hours. Part of the time expansion can be ameliorated by some rule changes I have advocated in the past, but the money generated by advertising is directly proportional to two things:
- The size of the audience which drives up the cost per 30 seconds of air time
- The number of seconds of advertising sold at whatever is the rate.
The reader here is completely correct to note that it is about the money and not about the games. Why do you think the MAC plays games on Tuesdays and Wednesdays? Answer: They get paid to do so and they would not get as much if they only played on weekends because MAC games are – generally speaking – less interesting than other college football game options. It is about the money – – exclamation point!
I think that the lack of a universal overseer in college football exacerbates the problem. In the NFL, the league office controls the number of games to be telecast and it makes sure that each of its “broadcast partners” gets a fair share of national games where there is little choice for fans to go and watch a different game. Such is not the case in college football and in that circumstance, many of the games draw a limited number of eyeballs. Lower numbers of viewers lead to lower rates for 30-second ads when then means there need to be more of those lower-rate 30-second ads to generate desired levels of revenue.
There is another issue that leads to limited audiences for many college football games and that is inherent in the sport. Passionate interest in college football comes from alums and students. Let me use myself as an example here; I went to an Ivy League school so my allegiance to games involving ACC teams is nil; I will watch games on the ACC Network for two reasons:
- It is an important game involving two teams generally thought to be among the better teams nationally.
- I just like college football in general and happen to settle on that ACC game as something to watch.
On a normal Saturday here in the DC area, I have the option to watch about 20-24 college football games from noon until about 2:00 AM on Sunday morning. That divides the audience pretty effectively; lots of folks can find access to a game that has an emotional link for them, but all those folks are not likely to pick the same game.
Let me channel President Clinton here and say:
- I feel your pain…
I also know that the quest to reach revenue targets works to assure that the number of ad slots wedged into individual college football games is unlikely to decrease any time soon. Those are the thoughts I have to share on the matter; sorry that they were not nearly “pithy.”
Finally, having touched on the subject of DUI above, let me close with this observation by humorist, Robert Benchley:
“Drinking makes such fools of people, and people are such fools to begin with that it’s compounding a felony.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………