Tuesday, September 26, 2006
Steamboat Springs The best way I've found to watch football on television is to step on the Nordic Track and exercise while the first half rolls by.
The constant interruption of the commercials still irritates me, but at least I'm distracted from the monotony of the exercise machine.
Even when the Broncos are in the midst of rediscovering their potency at the expense of the mighty New England Patriots, I cannot endure all of the commercial timeouts. It's making me so crazy I'm thinking about learning to crochet ski hats in the shape of football helmets this winter. Don't poke fun, at least at the end of a thriller like the Broncos' season opening loss to St. Louis, I would have something to show for the time invested.
We set the placemats and cutlery on the coffee table Sunday night and settled in to see if Jake the Snake and the Broncos could rediscover their knack for scoring touchdowns. I wish I had set out to tally and time the commercial breaks. I know it can't be true, but we felt like we were watching less football action than we were commercial messages.
Midway through the first period, we were laughing at how often we put down our eating utensils to grab the remote and hit the mute button. Both offensive units were struggling. It was a trend that resulted in a lot of three-play and six-play drives. With every change of possession we endured a flurry of commercials.
It went like this: The Patriots are faced with yet another punting situation and we get sent to that purgatory known as the commercial break. Before Al Michaels and John Madden come back, we get a tease of NBC's fall lineup with Faneuil Hall in the background. Then, we are treated to a fair catch of the punt and an illegal block in the back, followed by a witty Budweiser commercial.
It's almost impossible to sit still on the couch and watch a ball game not with 40 to 60 30-second commercials sold for the three-hour telecast.
To my surprise, I learned Monday morning that the NFL is not oblivious to the way some fans feel about the number of commercial interruptions in the games.
Adweek reports that for Monday Night Football, the league limits ESPN to 43 "in-game units," as they call commercials in the industry. That's in contrast to the 63 units ESPN was allowed last year for Sunday Night Football.
ESPN had virtually sold out the allotted ad slots for Monday Night Football as well as its new Saturday night prime time college football games on ABC by late August.
ESPN/ABC is allotted 60 in-game units for Saturday night college games.
NBC went into its new role on Sunday nights with about 85 percent of the units sold, according to vnuemedia.com. AdAge reported that the typical 30-second spot on Sunday night goes for about $350,000. That compares to $700,000 for a mid-series spot on American Idol in January.
Rates for Sunday Night Football will go up in the 10th, 15th and 17th weeks of the season when NBC is able to pick and choose attractive match-ups. Denver at Arizona looks like a long shot in week 15, but Pittsburgh at Carolina acts like a contender. I'll be certain to have my crochet hooks ready.
I'll bet you can guess why there are so many commercial interruptions in televised football games. ESPN is paying $1.1 billion a year for the rights to Monday Night Football. NBC dropped out of the NFL football sweepstakes in 1998 because top executive Dick Ebersol felt he couldn't justify the price. This year, the network came rushing back at an entry fee of $600 million a year (Monday Night Football sells at a premium because it doesn't follow an entire day of NFL games).
Sunday, I had the TVs in the house tuned to the games, but I couldn't hear them because I was driving a rented carpet cleaner around Ross Castle. Every time I had to empty the filthy water from the carpet sweeper, I sat down in a chair to watch a few plays. As soon as the telecast went to commercial, I went back to the real world.
I'd rather drive my Nordic Track than my carpet cleaner any night of the week.