Commercial Interruptions—College

From Fair Pay, Fair Play pages 27 and 47-49.

“It (sport) almost invariably has the final control on scheduling, start times, how many games constitute a playoff, on whether a game is going to be in prime time. What television does is tell a league or a team, ‘If you play at 4 o’clock, we will be able to pay you X. If you play at 8 o’clock, we will be able to pay you X plus Y.’ . . . It’s not a coercive situation. It’s a market-place decision of the sports themselves on how they want to utilize television. You can’t place a moral judgment on a business decision.” Neal Pilson, executive vice president of CBS Sports in 1985.

In college sports, the market-place is owned by the conferences and the rare independent team (e.g., Notre Dame) who know most fans–whether for pro or college team sports–think, and more importantly act, like Jonathan Schwartz who devotedly tunes in to follow his Boston Red Sox. Living in enemy territory—New York City—made it hard to follow his team in the over-the-air only era of radio. He’d regularly drive to the eastern edge of Manhattan on game day to get a radio signal. While in Paris in the 1980s, he’d listen to important games by calling a friend in Massachusetts who held the phone to a radio.  “It cost me a fortune, but the Red Sox were that important to me; they still are.” Technology changes now allow him to follow and support his team via satellite radio, but the inner drive remains the same: “I listen because it is insanely important that the Red Sox win.  My presence, in my imagination, helps.”

College conferences (and independent teams) and network executives know there are millions upon millions of fans of every My College Team who will watch from game start to end—and watch live. So, in addition to the conversation about scheduling, the network will tell the conferences (and teams), if you let us have x commercial breaks that run x long, we can pay you $$, but if you let us have y (more) commercial breaks that run y (longer) we can pay you $$$$$$$. The result is games interrupted by far too many and far too long commercial breaks. This is how one article commenter noted the impact on pro-football.

“Three to three & a half hours per game, of which only one hour is actual football and you need a survey to explain why 3 to 1 ads to games might be a clue?” said Graylingskies in a comment to an October 2016 article about the decline in NFL ratings. He also noted the excessive breaks repeatedly run the same ads and called it “network television’s version of waterboarding.”

And the situation is worse for fans in the stands, especially fans of a major college football team. These fans watch game action broken up way too often by “media” timeouts. I’ve heard fans scream “get of the field” at the guy in the red hat (he stands on the football field for the duration of the media timeout). Others yell about the network. But neither is to blame. Its the rights owners (conferences and independent teams) who put $$$ ahead of the game and the fans in stands.

It’s time for you to join the team and get into the game. Share with the team your concerns/frustrations on this issue. Do you have a current example? Share it. Below the comment box you can see what the team is saying on this issue.

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