Yes, You Can Even Ruin A Non-Televised Football Game With Too Many Ads

Last Saturday I went to a college football game. It was the first I had been to in a long time, so I have to qualify that my observations are particular to this event and may not be true at other venues.

Frankly, if they are, I will never know -- because if this is the new normal, I won't be going back to another game, anywhere.

Having played college football and followed it all of my adult life (I even watch games in real time with my son in Los Angeles, as we text reactions to great plays back and forth. But I have to be careful, because there is often a slight delay in his reception of the same live broadcast, and a HOLY SHIT!!!! from me can be a spoiler for him.) This is to say that I am intimately familiar with the economics of college football and am well aware that few programs make any money.

I paid $32 for a general admission ticket, intending to stay only for the first half since the second conflicted with a far better game on TV (LSU's mauling of Georgia). Lots of other folks had paid FAR more to sit on the shaded side with seat backs and nearby concessions. I was on high-school-level metal bleachers along with most of the visiting team's parents and fans.



Regardless of what you paid, the experience was miserable. But that had nothing to go with the quality of play on the field. It had to do with advertising.

Let's set the scene. Main scoreboard was festooned with ads surrounding the video screen -- which mercifully was invisible in the sunlight. (You would have thought a school that prides itself on its engineering programs would have figured out how to place the screen so the sun would not wash it out the entire day). Unlike, say USTA matches, there was no dignified uniformity to the ads. It was whatever they could sell, so it pretty much looked like Times Square in the '70s.

On the visitor's side, there were giant tent card ads along the length of the field.  They at least looked somewhat uniform, but still incredibly out of place, adding to the desperate, downscale feeling of the stadium.

Whenever there was a pause in action on the field, video ads blared from the sun-blocked screen. You could see 15,000 people trying to find a remote to skip or mute it. The fidelity was so bad you often had no idea what was being pitched (calling that engineering dept...). If I were the buyer, I would have asked for my money back.

During the game, someone in the press box who clearly grew up hoping to be the next Michael "Let's get ready to rumble!!!" Buffer, attached ad messages to first and third down situations. So as the teams moved down the field, we had to listen to "That's another (brand) third down!" And, whenever the video scoreboard was mercifully quiet, Mr. I Wish I Was Buffer would read ad copy from a local business over the PA system. It was appalling.

I escaped just as the first half ended, imagining that halftime would be a festival of commercial messages.

I have often written in this space about the number of linear networks and OTT services that absolutely crush the user experience by overloading their programming with too many ads, or ads that have no frequency cap. That's a powerful incentive to record the programs and skip over the ad pods.

This local college team gave me a powerful incentive to never attend another game.

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