Notre Dame Football: NBC Commercial Breaks Are Killing the Magic

The Rock NDNation.comSenior Analyst IJune 20, 2008

Who kills the magic at Notre Dame? Often, it's the very network that supports it (and Dick Ebersol has been a committed Note Dame supporter). NBC has been a good partner, but it is time ND started demanding more from the network.

Certainly losing doesn't help, but Notre Dame is about the game day experience. NBC has systematically helped kill the golden goose by focusing on inventory.

What's inventory? It's the amount of ad spots a network has to sell per show. Here's where the dealmakers have hurt both Notre Dame and themselves with short-term inventory creation prioritized over product degradation.

It's simple; they're not viewing football from a product perspective first and hurting the experience.

I read stories about the Notre Dame/NBC deal and Touchdown Jesus wants to cry.

Here's how Tom Coyne (a very respected ND writer) couched his recent AP article: "NBC renewed its television contract with Notre Dame football through the 2015 season on Thursday, despite the Fighting Irish last year drawing their lowest ratings since the network began broadcasting their games in 1991."

Okay, I like Tom almost as much as Lou Somogyi at Blue and Gold and Mike Frank of Irish Eyes, but that's just a bullshit opening line.

Last year was a Three Wood-created Chauncey nightmare which happens when you don't have one senior offensive lineman (and a host of other lazy recruiting reverberations) on the team. NBC didn't renew "despite" last year, it renewed "because" it knew last year was an anomaly of circumstances we will never see again.

They renewed because it's Notre Dame and there are few franchises left for networks to secure and because over the past two years, Notre Dame has brought two incredible recruiting classes. There's no doubt Notre Dame will be contending by next year.

So let's drop this notion of NBC doing ND any favors. Fox would have picked up this contract in a heartbeat.

NBC has to understand what makes a product attractive to begin with...and I'll make this simple.. it's not adding extra time during commercial breaks. That kills the interest at home games (though it revs up bar sales) and decimates the hard to come by home field advantage in South Bend.

In short, the entire methodology is short-sighted and self-defeating. I like Ad guys. I love ad guys. They keep television free for the masses. But you can't let ad guys control the product.

It's like letting the fox control the hens. Ad guys (and gals) will increase inventory to the greatest extent they can, because that increases overall upfront revenue.

But here's where the story comes to a grinding halt. Those extended TV timeouts take a toll on viewers at home and on the energy of viewers in the stadium.

If the stadium magic dies, the team loses an ally. If the team loses an ally, they lose an advantage. If the team loses an advantage, they lose more games.

Everyone who's been to a ND game knows how much those constant interruptions suck the wind out of games. Sure, late game heroics can restoke the magic fires, but if we didn't let the flames die to begin with, we wouldn't have to restoke them.

If the experience is less exciting due to the constant interruptions and the team suffers because of it, ratings go down. It's worse in a down year, but true in an up year as well.

So if ratings decrease, what does NBC do?


There's less money per minute for everyone, which keeps the pressure on to create more inventory. It's this kind of "down the toilet" thinking that has permeated ND negotiations at all levels. What Notre Dame needs to do is keep the product strong and interesting; the money will be there.

NBC, for its own good, should cut down on TV timeouts and lessen inventory for the overall health of its product and to maximize ultimate revenues.

As Ted Mandell wrote in the Indy Star years ago, "Frankly, they're bored. The result of too much momentum interruptus. With the ebb and flow of the game destroyed by crass commercialism, the coaches, players, and fans are now glassy-eyed slaves to the predictable onslaught of TV timeouts, the curse of college football. A pseudo-ref steps onto the field and sticks up his foamy orange right arm like a runway cop at the airport. The game stops."

NBC needs to recognize that the game experience is everything. You can make money by building up the experience, not parceling it out until the magic is gone.

Ultimately, it's the magic that will bring in viewers, fans, and eventually money.


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