The MLB Online: It's 'Groundhog Day' At Commercial Breaks

Except for the All-Star Game and home run derby, Major League Baseball takes a few days off now. It’s time to reflect about what has happened in the approximate first half the season.

I’m reflecting now. In the first half of the season, I’ve learned a few things from watching games on MLB.tv:  The branch of chemistry that deals with biology is biochemistry. The Ming Dynasty happened in China. In 1947, Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier.  And the most common eye color in the world is brown.

These things have nothing to do with baseball but in between innings on MLB.tv streaming telecasts they are constantly repeated promos for MLB’s “Bucks on the Pond,” a game show in which a studio host asks fans in the baseball stands trivia questions. They are just about the only promos--the same questions--day after day.

It’s a cute show and lots of laughs, when you see the whole thing. But the promos are nauseating. Because the promos play endlessly. That is, you will see them over and over (and over and over) again if you watch baseball via MLB.tv.  And as you can figure, once you have guessed (or learned) the most common eye color in the world is brown or the other answers, the fun--the promotional value, if you will--is really, really diminished. 

It’s not just the promos. You will also see the same commercials played repeatedly, every single time there is a break, at the half inning, and when a relief pitcher is called in. And because baseball is a game of nine innings with a break in the middle of each one, and pitchers rarely pitch an entire game, you get plenty of opportunities to see these commercials. Plenty.

If you watch straight through, from beginning to end, look out!  A little while ago, I saw the same paint commercial 17 times in one game.  In that one, the guy in the suit asks the painter, “What kind of properties are you looking for in a latex semi-gloss?”  Not to bore you with the details (I certainly could) but the short answer from the painter is “Flow and coverage.”  The phrase has now become an inside joke around the house.

For several days this month, there seemed to no other advertiser, which seems to be the way things mostly work on MLB.tv, but the ad also seemed to have disappeared shortly after I asked MLB.tv about it.

It has been replaced largely by an endlessly repeating commercial for Kay Jewelers in which a fellow is preparing to give his girlfriend Becky an engagement ring. This drama now plays out several times a night between innings. In the last few days, a Head and Shoulders commercial has been working itself in.  So the variety is improving slightly.

But for the record, in that same game that I counted the paint commercial 17 times,  the Ming Dynasty question promoting “Bucks On The Pond” was asked and answered at least 14 times, and three of those times the same promo with the same question ran twice in a row.

It was not an unusually bad night, either. I haven’t counted the repetitions since then, but I know things haven’t changed much, except that the painter seems to be gone. 

MLB.tv also uses “breaks in the action” to show highlight snippets from past seasons, ranging all the way back to when Roberto Clemente was still alive.  

That sounds like an apt and logical time filler. The storehouse of worthy television highlights, even from just the last two seasons, must be enormous. On ESPN, “Baseball Tonight” puts together a show of fresh highlights—daily.  

But on MLB.tv, you will see the same highlights—about eight of them, from past seasons—each and every night.  Several times the highlight is interrupted in mid-amazement.  On the night I counted, the highlights ran 17 times. They ran to entirety nine times.  They were cut off eight times.   

A lot of people don’t like commercials and interruptions.  MLB.com seems to take “don’t like” to a stronger level.  

And yet…

I have some sympathy for MLB.tv though it may not sound like it. Bringing all those games to subscribers, most of them simultaneously, and on many devices, is no easy feat.  And I’ll tell you a little about that tomorrow. 

pj@mediapost.com

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4 comments about "The MLB Online: It's 'Groundhog Day' At Commercial Breaks ".
  1. Mike Einstein from the Brothers Einstein , July 14, 2014 at 2:29 p.m.
    Sounds to me like the MLB advertisers have caught your attention and them some. Speaking of which, I couldn't recall a prime-time network advertiser's spot if my life depended on it. What's your point besides it being a slow news day in the media world?
  2. pj bednarski from pj , July 14, 2014 at 2:45 p.m.
    Really, quite the contrary. The constant repeating of the same message to a captive audience seems to be pretty awful, and really something you'd expect from a small UHF station rather that a league trying to package a service subscribers pay, I think, $99 a year to get. MLB subscribers watch lots of games--that's why they subscribe--and so they see the same message. If it was the same group of messages, that would be one thing. The same, exact message, day after day, combined with the same exact promos and interstitials, day after day, makes for a very bad viewing experience. I will never forget the name of the paint company--that's true. And that will make it easy for me to remember to never buy the paint.
  3. John Wells from Self , July 14, 2014 at 6:51 p.m.
    Never buy the paint. Never buy the car insurance and never buy the cereal. I have a list that keeps getting longer and longer of brands I need to remember not to buy. The solution? Watch everything with a half hour delay and zip through this trash. These companies need to be taught that their incessant pounding will result in lower income. I'm tired of being offended with the same 17 commercials in one sitting. The DVR is our best weapon against corporate greed.
  4. Matthew Mclaughlin from DoubleVerify , July 15, 2014 at 9:51 a.m.
    I couldn't agree more - I have seen the paint commercial at least 500 times this year - and while some may argue that is good exposure I find it very annoying that there is no variation between innings.