Baltimore Ravens Owner Has Ingenious Solution For NFL Ratings Drop: Stop Annoying Fans With Too Many Ads
from the evolve-or-pay-the-price dept
For a long time, the narrative du jour in cable and broadcast circles was that sports would save cable TV from the unholy threat of cord cutting and the associated ratings drop. Live sports and sports analysis was, the argument usually went, the one true piece of bedrock in the cable and broadcast empire that could protect the industry from sagging ratings and defecting customers. But as we’ve see by the NFL’s 2016 ratings dip and ESPN’s stumbling face-plant, sports simply isn’t the panacea industry executives pretended it was. Of course, the industry likes to attack any messenger that points this out, but it doesn’t make the underlying reality any less true.
With sports ratings in decline, the obvious question then becomes what to do about it. Most of the proposals being circulated by the industry have been relatively comical, like the NFL’s decision earlier this year to simply shuffle the Titanic deck chairs a little and consider the subject closed:
“According to people familiar with the plan, the one-week test will reduce the number of commercial breaks from the standard five per quarter to four, while retaining the usual spot load. In other words, while football fans will have fewer opportunities to make kitchen runs and bathroom breaks, the ad pods that do air will eat up more clock.”
So the industry’s ingenious solution to complaints that there are too many ads? Keep the same overall ad load, but just shuffle the delivery up a little bit. That’s kind of on par with the ingenious solutions the cable and broadcast industry has been using for years. When they’re not responding to consumer annoyance by just increasing ad load, they’ve focused on editing or speeding up shows to fit in more ads. Obviously none of this is going to address the fact that streaming video has changed the entire game, and traditional television has to adapt or perish, even if this means initially losing revenue.
Baltimore Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti this week had a novel idea; how about the NFL stop shoving so many ads down the gullets of already frustrated users, most of whom pay an arm and a leg for cable?
“It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that nobody wants to see two minutes of commercials, come back, kick the ball and then go to a minute-and-a-half of commercials,” Bisciotti said Tuesday. “I’ve thought that was absurd since I was 20 years old.”
You mean, fining teams for sharing video clips isn’t going to fix things? Bisciotti goes on to note that yes, this will certainly result in a drop in initial revenue, but hey — it won’t hurt billionaire owners any, really:
“We’ve got to figure that out,” Bisciotti said. “Again, if you change that, it could mean a reduction in income, but that’s going to hit the players more significantly than it’s going to hit the owners. I still don’t know any owner that’s in this business because of the money.
“Everything is on the table, and if we have to go to ABC and NBC and say that we’ve got to cut some commercials out and give some money back and half of that money doesn’t go into the player pool, maybe that’s what we’re going to have to do. But our expenses would be adjusted accordingly too. So, I’d like to see some things cleaned up.”
What a novel idea. Actually changing your behavior instead of crucifying anybody that suggests you should adapt? Examining aggressive and creative solutions to the ongoing ratings and cord cutting slide, instead of burying your head deeply in the sand? Traditional cable providers and broadcasters are going to lose money in the face of increased competition and more consumer choice. The question then becomes, do these companies want to have at least some kind of direct control over this trajectory and evolution of their industry, or are they just going to do nothing, and stand there with dumb looks on their faces as customers flock to less expensive, more flexible, and ultimately less annoying entertainment alternatives?