Ever wondered how much time you waste being advertised to during a normal baseball game? During a Channel 4SD broadcast between the San Diego Padres and St. Louis Cardinals on May 20th, 2008 I decided to find out.
The game of baseball has changed a lot over the years. Technological advancements, most recently those of the Internet age, have changed the rules of interaction between the entertainer and the entertainee.
The fears of broadcasters that were envisioned when home videotaping was declared legal, are finally coming to pass. People are watching fewer commercials and baseball is no exception. Yeah no shit Melvin, enough with the overly dramatic intro. Get to the point.
Wait, did I say that or just think it?
The point, jerk, is that Channel 4 San Diego, the Cox Communications owned cable channel that broadcasts the Padres, has to find a way to turn a profit in this difficult landscape. Their response, has been to increase sponsored broadcast time during Padres games in addition to standard commercial breaks.
The San Diego Padres, in conjunction with the City of San Diego own and operate Petco Park. To boost revenues, the small market team sells advertising signage in a multitude of sizes and locations throughout the ballpark. This of course, though the sign density has varied in ballparks throughout history, is not news. What is news, is that new signs are still popping up, they even hinder fan views of the game. (Hat tip Gaslamp Ball)
How much does that add up?
Lots of new information about the nature of baseball was discovered over the last decade or so. We learned most of it by taking a new approach, using evidence and data to support theories. My intent is to apply this principal to another aspect of the baseball fan experience. Instead of simply estimating, I want to know exactly how much time we spend being marketed to while watching a San Diego Padres broadcast.
My plan is to accurately measure both normal commercials and in-game advertising. To do this, I used two watches and measured each category separately. I hope you’re envisioning this beautiful image of me sitting in front of both a TV and computer, taking notes, and intensely operating not one but two stop watches. If only my high school crush could see me now. Lucky for my pride it was only a Tuesday night.
The first stop watch was the easy one. It kept track of time during every commercial break, of both the national and local variety.
The second watch was the doozie. It ran during every second that a viewer saw or heard any type of paid marketing message, not including normal commercials. This also did not include in house MLB or Padres messages. Though those types of messages were included if they were corporate sponsored messages, which was usually the case.
The study includes any shilling from Mud for his various spokesdeals, though it deserves mention that play-by-play was called by Steve Quis on this particular broadcast. The guys in this game kept the paid lauding to a minimum.
In addition, any time a stadium sign ad was clearly readable, time was kept. This constituted behind the plate ads seen from the center-field camera angle, and ads in the dugout. I watched on an older 19” standard def television, from about 8 feet away. It’s safe to say that this setup, a bastion of bleeding edge television technology, didn’t offer any unfair viewing advantage.
Here’s a list of the various sponsored baseball happenings, brought to you by this or named after that through Cox Channel 4. I’ll leave out the names of the corporate sponsors, though any semi-regular watcher could probably rattle them off quicker than names of family members. Most of them appeared more than once throughout the broadcast.
- SAP telecast
- defensive alignments for both teams
- lineups for both teams
- “mlb comparisson” stat board
- trivia question
- bottom of the screen out of town scoreboard
- all middle of the inning pitching changes, plus select new inning pitching changes
- “major league leaders” stat board
- the box score
- beyond the box score
- postgame show
- pregame show
- pitch tracker
- various incarnations of replays
Moving on to the meat, the total game time was 144 minutes. Of that, the regular commercials lasted 28 minutes and 30 seconds. The total in game advertisement time including all shilling and visible stadium ads came to 33 minutes and 55 seconds. This means that both categories of product hawking during the broadcast took up a grand total of 62 minutes and 25 seconds, roughly 44% of total game time (there is a small amount of round off error in the chart).
What does Melly Mel think?
If it isn’t clear from my tone, I’m not all that into advertising. That said, it doesn’t take a Joe Morgan intern to glance at the sidebar on the right and notice that even the great Sac Bunt sells advertising space. The big deal to me is that while broadcasters are working to compensate for viewers watching fewer commercials by selling airtime during games, they still show as many commercials as ever.
It’s a long slow process, I know. But I think the graph above demonstrates that shit’s getting a bit excessive. It needs fixin. As more in game advertising increases, lets spend less time dilly daddling around with the same old crap in between innings.
Whatever changes happen, they have to start with the fans. If the powers at be think we’re ok with it, they’ll pile it on til the cows come home. This goal of this article is to draw attention to what is happening, and encourage people to speak their mind about it. For all I know, people might be ok with the clutter. But considering the reaction to the above mentioned Spider Man movie debacle, I don’t think this is the case. That’s why we should talk about it.