When It Costs Too Much (In Time And Money) To Watch Sports

The other night, my youngest son (22) and I discussed if we would watch an NFL game about to start on linear TV. In the end, we agreed that the match-up did not warrant sitting through the commercial load. 

I thought it interesting that our decision wasn’t driven by the odds, the chance to watch one of the better emerging QBs, or if the game would end up being dramatic. Rather it was about how annoying it is to watch any sports live on TV now, because of the number and frequency of commercials.  

I routinely record college football games for at least an hour before starting to watch in order to skip the commercials. 

It was in this context that I read that worldwide sports rights revenues will grow 75% by 2025 to $85.1 billion (from $48.6 billion in 2018), according to a research group. 

Which to me says that the networks (or other broadcast partners) will either have to start charging audiences fees to watch individual live games or that the commercial load will only get crushingly worse. Probably both.



It has been years since professional sports teams (with colleges not far behind) priced the average guy out of attending live games. The last time I took my daughter to a Yankees game, it cost about $750 all in all — and those were so-so seats well beyond the dugout in the upper deck.  

Additional aside: “pitching duels” do not enhance the ROI on $750. Last season, MLB attendance dropped to its lowest average in 15 years (small wonder, with an average ticket price of +$75.)

Attending a local college game is like falling into a sewer of commercial messages, with tent card ads lining the sidelines and billboards festooning every available inch of stadium wall space, audio and videoboard ads blaring at every break, and first- and third-down announcements associated with sponsors. 

I expect corporate logos on helmets at any moment. After all, they are already on jerseys in any number of other sports.

There has to be a tipping point beyond which consumers simply say “enough!” and stop attending and/or watching live sports coverage. I know that live attendance is falling for most pro sports, and that college football games almost never sell out any more. 

Interestingly, live sports are said to be the savior of networks TV delivering audiences that far surpass those who tune in for drama, news, reality TV, etc. But I suspect I am not the only one who is skipping games that I might otherwise watch because it takes nearly 4 hours of commercial time to see a typical football game that in reality is less than 15 minutes of actual play. Recording games gets them down to about an hour.

Years ago, at least one broadcast network used to digest all of Notre Dame’s football games, and on Sunday mornings (ironically) would show you everything worth watching from the game in under an hour.

Now that’s something I would pay for today.

5 comments about "When It Costs Too Much (In Time And Money) To Watch Sports".
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  1. John Grono from GAP Research, October 4, 2019 at 10:12 p.m.

    Interesting George.

    I'm not that familiar with the US NFL feeds (apart from SB), but I was wondering whether the broadcast ads are (at least sometimes) shown in preference to the actual game activity.

    I suspect that the answer is 'no'.   If so, what is your preference for filling the gaps between plays?

    Do we have commentators prattle on repeating the same thing?   Maybe instant replays and 'expert analysis'?   Sponsor and supporter ads?   Station idents and promos?   Community Service Announcements?

    Personally, I don't mind a mix of all of the above.

    I think what pains people is incessant repetition.   It could be the expert reviewing the video replay to determine exactly why a flag is down.   It could be the commentator inistsing that player 'X' is the worst DE in history while player 'Y' is the next great QB.   And of course it could be watching the same ad dozens of times during the broadcast.

    Could it possibly be that it is the ad rotation (or lack thereof) that is the real problem rather than ads per se?

  2. George Simpson from George H. Simpson Communications, October 4, 2019 at 11:36 p.m.

    Hey John, it is both. If you watch a lot of college games like I go, you see the same ads over and over and over and most of them are for things of no interest to me like fast food, beer and insurance. You see many of the same marketers on NFL games ( often the same creative - again ).  While they tend not to interrupt ongoing action like a scoring drive, but will cut away during nearly every pause in action...and there are lots of pauses. Alternative content: updates on other games, news, player bios, something unexpected like medical explanations of common fb injuries like concussions, torn ligaments, a visit to a home team city famous restaurant..really is not that hard. But sports in this country are all about the money. Until the audience votes with their absence.

  3. John Grono from GAP Research, October 5, 2019 at 12:51 a.m.

    Thanks George.

    Isn't the REAL problem that a game of 4 x 15 minute quarters with 60 minutes of play takes more than 3 hours?   That is, the broadcast is 60 minutes of play and 120+ minutes of filler and ads.

  4. George Simpson from George H. Simpson Communications, October 5, 2019 at 1:01 a.m.

    Indeed, a few years ago the WSJ did a study that revealed if you calculated the length of a football game in terms of only when the ball is in movement, the game is only 9 minutes long.  So, an astronomical need for filler.

  5. John Grono from GAP Research replied, October 5, 2019 at 1:05 a.m.

    ... or fix a fundamental problem with the game!   I started to lose interest when Joe Montana hung up his boots.

    You should watch Australa's AFL.   Still too many stoppages in it for my liking though ... but I still drive the 280km to/from each home game!

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