Wednesday, October 15, 2008

"Mr Faust, please report to the TV studio"

To the average sports fan in the twenty first century, TV ads between overs or during other breaks in the action have become something of a necessary evil. There's an awareness that, on commercial channels, income has to be generated somewhere, and often they can be a blessed relief to spare us from some of the more inane commentary banter for a few seconds.

In the US they've long had the 'TV timeout' in all sports - a break in the action deliberately designed to maximise advertising revenue for the TV networks. These are perennially a pain in the rear end. Often a team will be on a roll - either advancing down the field in gridiron or on a big points run in basketball. The opposing coach is reluctant to use one of his limited number of timeouts at this stage, but then the TV light goes on, everyone in the arena sits around for a couple of minutes and all the excitement disappears like a balloon being let down. An NFL game officially lasts an hour, but often the time between kick off and the end of the game can be up to three hours. Likewise an NBA game involves 48 minutes of action, spread out over two hours twenty minutes.

We've managed to avoid this so far over here - probably because neither football or rugby lend themselves to a break in the action beyond the usual half time interval (though don't think FIFA aren't toying with the idea...) and cricket has enough natural breaks woven into the fabric of the game to satisfy even the most zealous TV marketing executive. What other sport has official breaks for lunch and tea for example?

But now consider the upcoming Stanford game.

Obviously the organisers will be aiming to recoup a lot of the prize money outlay through maximising advertising revenue. The pre-match build up programme is likely to last at least an hour, with probably a third of that as advertising time. The mid innings break will provide more advertising opportunity and studio analysts are likely to get about thirty seconds to share their pearls of wisdom on the action we've just seen.

They won't go to quite the extent that Spanish TV football coverage does where literally the whole half time break less about a minute is normally taken up with ads- but it'll be close.

Out in the middle, I'd guess that the captains and officials will be 'encouraged' to slow things down between overs to fit in more ads, and I doubt whether anyone will be fined for a slothful overrate. What's the betting that a couple of fully fledged drinks breaks are introduced, totally interrupting the flow and immediacy of the game.

This makes you think that the whole spectacle could be dragged out to around five hours - and further makes you wonder why Stanford and his entourage don't simply make it a 50 overs a side match, or stretch it over five days and call it a 'Test Match'.

No comments: