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?

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Comments on “Baltimore Ravens Owner Has Ingenious Solution For NFL Ratings Drop: Stop Annoying Fans With Too Many Ads”

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TripMN says:

Re: Re:

So I’ve got this concept. We make a channel about sports where we run a sports ticker showing game scores and sports news 24/7 across the bottom. Big game is on? No worries, the ticker is constantly updating and we’ll show highlight clips. Oh, it won’t be in real-time because we don’t have the contract for that, but we make tons of money on the near-constant ads we can run behind the ticker.

What, I just described ESPN? Never heard of it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: The proper use


Search Results
adjective: ingenious

(of a person) clever, original, and inventive.
“he was ingenious enough to overcome the limited budget”
synonyms: inventive, creative, imaginative, original, innovative, pioneering, resourceful, enterprising, inspired; More
clever, intelligent, smart, brilliant, masterly, talented, gifted, skillful;
astute, sharp-witted, quick-witted, shrewd;
elaborate, sophisticated
“an ingenious economist”
(of a machine or idea) cleverly and originally devised and well suited to its purpose.


Search Results
adjective: genuine

truly what something is said to be; authentic.
“each book is bound in genuine leather”
synonyms: authentic, real, actual, original, bona fide, true, veritable; More
attested, undisputed;
informalthe real McCoy, honest-to-goodness, honest-to-God, the real thing, kosher
“a genuine Picasso”
antonyms: bogus
(of a person, emotion, or action) sincere.
“she had no doubts as to whether Tom was genuine”
synonyms: sincere, honest, truthful, straightforward, direct, frank, candid, open; More
artless, natural, unaffected;
informalstraight, upfront, on the level, on the up and up
“a genuine person”
antonyms: insincere


Search Resultsdis·in·gen·u·ous
adjective: disingenuous

not candid or sincere, typically by pretending that one knows less about something than one really does.
synonyms: insincere, dishonest, untruthful, false, deceitful, duplicitous, lying, mendacious; hypocritical
“that innocent, teary-eyed look is just part of a disingenuous act”

Please learn to use a dictionary.

Anonymous Coward says:

Recent reports based off of the Packers’ required financial disclosures (by virtue of being the only publically-owned team) show that the NFL had $7.24 billion worth of revenue to divide among the teams this year.

How ever could they possibly get by with anything lower than 7 billion??

ECA (profile) says:

Who is old enough

to remember COMICS before all the adverts?
When the Corps ran TV with their OWN SHOWS…
HOW about when what was SAID on TV, was mostly truth..
When we could BUY something and it LASTED, at least 10 years..
When Utilities were run by the States and Gov, rather then CORPS that need to up the prices every year..PROFIT.
A nation where PROFIT wasnt the MOST important thing..a GOOD product was.

Tim K (profile) says:

2 minute warning

Just last week I was looking into the purpose of the 2-minute warning in football. Seemed pretty dumb, and only added more commercials. Turns out originally it was because the stadium clock was not the official time, so they used that to make sure the teams knew exactly how much time was left. Then when it became the official time, they left it because of TV for commercials and to ‘build tension’. But really for commercials.

streetlight (profile) says:

Re: 2 minute warning

It’s not just football. My wife and I watched quite a few College Women’s Volleyball games this fall as she has a cousin on one of the Div IA teams that ended up in the NCAA tournament. These were streamed live on Watch ESPN. There were time-outs, and the announcer mentioned before some that the time-out was a “media time-out”. IIRC, the rules allow two time-outs per set in volleyball but now now there are extra “media time-outs” in women’s volleyball. Where will it end?

TripMN says:

Re: Re: Re: 2 minute warning


I grew up in Minnesota and once you got to the State level of high school competition where you are televised, there were “media timeouts”. In basketball, the coaches almost never had to call a timeout except right at the end of the game or if the game was really going off the rails because sooner or later an out-of-bounds would result in a blown whistle and a stop for commercials. Same thing was true of varsity Football and Hockey (I don’t remember any other sports but probably others as well). This was back in the mid-90s, so it can only have gotten worse since.

gigglehurtz (profile) says:

There are three reasons I no longer watch NFL games.

1 – Yeah, the ads. Way too many. Like Bisciotti said, commercials, kick the ball, more commercials. Ridiculous. It surprised me to learn they only have 5 spots per quarter.

2 – The game announcers. These guys can be so hard to listen to. It seems that actually talking about the plays happening on the field is not top priority.

3 – And I might be in the minority here, but I’m tired of the dancing and other for-the-cameras displays. Sure, when they make the big plays you expect and can even enjoy the celebration, but to me it’s mostly become play acting now.

I, like Chris, have started watching soccer, and one day I might actually understand what off sides means. It’s 45+ minutes at a time of solid game play before half-time commercials, and the announcers actually call the game.

l8gravely (profile) says:

Re: use Tivo!

My solution to most football games (and even futball!) is to just record the damn thing on my Tivo, go away for an hour or so and then watch the game.

Snap the ball, watch the play til it ends, hit the button to skip 30 seconds and bam! they’re snapping the ball again. Cuts out all the crap. And if I miss something, back it up 6 seconds and I’m all set.

Commercials come on, skip skip skip, and I’m back in the game. Simply awesome!

Want to watch a play over and over again? In slow-mo? Pause the game to go get some food? Need a bathroom break? Need to put a kid to bed? Pause it! It will be there when you come back!

I don’t care about the realtime games too much.

And even for the superbowl, I’ll probably just skip most of the ads even though they’re supposed to be interesting and fun. Why can’t they be interesting and fun all year long? Would be alot cheaper to produce for sure…

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“It’s 45+ minutes at a time of solid game play before half-time commercials, and the announcers actually call the game.”

Believe me, it can get worse. They start inserting augmented reality ads in the middle of the game superimposing the audio or the announcers themselves ‘announce’ the advertisers. Still, it’s better than NFL it seems.

Anonymous Coward says:

Haven’t these idiots heard of supply and demand? Tell the advertisers we are now going to have 4 advertisements, twice in a quarter, and the price of these spots are going to double or triple. (Haven’t sat thru a football game in a while, so not sure how many ads there are now.)

Advertisers will still pay, because it is a heck of a lot of people to get their beer commercial to. (and maybe the commercials will be better than what we get now) Fans will come back because the ads numbers are no worse than whatever else is on TV. And players might take a hit, but it’s smaller than it was going to be with the proposed cuts.

Anonymous Coward says:

So I have to wonder if more ads during the games, results in younger viewers not being as interested, and hence not becoming the die hard fans the networks need to sustain viewership later on in life.

Sounds like they are in a bit of a death spiral to me, and alternative facts aren’t going to get them out of it.

Simon says:

Re: Re:

My kids have zero interest in it. As always the NFL and TV networks would rather squeeze a few more dollars out of the existing fans than provide a long term plan for sustainability. After all, they want their bonuses now, where’s the incentive for making things better 10 years down the road when somebody else would reap the benefit?

John85851 (profile) says:

Be careful what we wish for

Maybe the NFL will decide this guy is right and cut down on the number of commercials.
It’ll then decide that “commercials” only mean 30 second or 1-monute spots… but that ads shown along the bottom or over the action aren’t “commercials”.

I can easily see a game turning into this:
And here’s the coin toss, sponsored by Bank of America. When you need money, go to Bank of America.
The quarterback takes the ball, sponsored by Toyota, the official truck company of the NFL. Visit their website at…
And he throws the ball, This throw sponsored by Tide. When something has to be clean, use Tide.
And he catches the ball and calls a time out. This time out sponsored by Rolex.

sigalrm (profile) says:

Re: Be careful what we wish for

Why be so subtle?

They already do a lot of near-real time video modification (Line of scrimage, first down lines, player highlights).

What if, instead of a football, they simply replace the football with, say, a can of Coors Light trailing a silver line (so you can see the trajectory). Or replace all the linemen with images of pick-up trucks, the QB as a Tesla, and the receivers as Cadillacs. Catching cans of Coors. With a ticker sponsored by MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) on the bottom of the page.

the who field can be replaced with a Verizon/TMo/whoever network map, showing how well mobile connections can be established from point A to B.

The possibilities are nearly limitless.

TDR says:

If you ask me, the moment it started going downhill for the NFL was the moment they allowed corporations to put their names on the stadiums, often replacing the iconic originals and the facilities themselves. Candlestick Park became the boring 3Com Park, for example. Not to mention the college bowl games adding corporate names to the game titles and in the process making them long idiotic mouthfuls that no sane person would go around saying. There are some places advertising just shouldn’t go, imo. It just becomes so utterly tasteless when they do.

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