Sports broadcasts are reaching absurd lengths

Photo by Sara Schmitt

As the college football (and soon the NFL) season has come and gone, it is a good time to look at the direction broadcasting companies are taking when it comes to how they broadcast games.

Nowadays, it seems broadcasts are getting longer and longer. Companies are looking to reduce game times to compensate; however, the main problem is the companies themselves.

While the statistics for the 2016 season seem to still be in the wind, the stats from 2014 and 2015 give a view of game length trends. According to an article published by the Wall Street Journal titled “College Football Games Are Far Too Long,” since 2008, the average length of a college football game has grown by about 15 minutes. This puts the average game time at almost three and a half hours.

While this is not inherently a problem, you have to consider how much of that actual time is spent playing the game. In the NFL, most games have about 11 minutes of action. Translating this back to the college game, we can say that college football games have 11 minutes plus or minus five minutes of action. This results in at most 16 minutes of the
actual game.

I understand that many sports have this problem. Major League Baseball has recently been changing rules to shorten game times and make baseball more appealing to fans at home; however, college football does not have a problem with appeal. College football ratings are soaring, especially for big playoff games. With those ratings increasing so too are the length
of broadcasts.

A common gripe for the championship game this season was the absurd length of the coverage coupled with the game being played late on the east coast. After that game, some companies made statements about decreasing the length of halftime.

Many fans responded with sassy remarks regarding commercial breaks. It seems now that any time a team scores a touchdown, the fans must prepare for three commercial breaks: one following the initial touchdown, another following the extra point and the final one after the kickoff. It seems that there are large pockets of dead time.

For a football team like Tech’s, which feeds off energetic offensive plays and maintaining momentum, the random commercial breaks stop momentum and stagnate drives. As a fan, this pisses me off to no end. An apt comparison would be the astounding amount of replay in the National Championship game. It seemed as soon as there was a big play, the replay officials would call that the play was under further review, killing all momentum a team had
just earned.

This all comes down to money; broadcasting companies want to maximize profits and have found a business model that allows it. However, I think there are better ways. I would like to look at two current models in place: soccer and e-sports.

I think the main difference between soccer and e-sports models and football and baseball models is the amount of action. In e-sports and soccer, a commercial break in the middle of a match would throw off viewers, so they resort to other forms of advertising, like advertisements placed in the stadium and sponsor logos placed on jerseys, which do not break
the action.

The NBA recently announced that in the upcoming 2017–18 season teams would be allowed to place ads on their jerseys. One drawback to this is that many colleges and universities would not support this decision, as many of their stadiums are largely void of outside advertising. However, if teams want fewer commercials, concessions will have to be made.

I long for the day we return to short commercials with plenty of time talking about the game. Unfortunately, I think the time to return to that has passed, and we can now only put our feet down.