“It’s a trade-off for our marketing partners.”

I am truly amazed NBA Commissioner Adam Silver was able to pull this off.

From last season to this one, based in large part on the data we gathered, we changed the format of our game. We went from a possible 18 time-outs to 14 time-outs, we standardized the length of the time-outs, and we shortened halftime by a few minutes. And we made additional changes to the commercial format, because we were able to see exactly where we were losing fans.

S+B: Where were you losing them?

SILVER: Not surprisingly, we lose the highest number of fans when we move off live action, especially at halftime. And we lose fans at every commercial break. So we’re experimenting, with Turner and ESPN, with not leaving the arena completely during commercial breaks, and instead having a split screen, where we stay with the huddle at the same time we show an ad.

That’s right, he was able to convince the networks to shear off some commercial breaks.  How?

… On the one hand, they’d like the full attention of a viewer. On the other hand, they might prefer to keep all of the viewers and find ways to create connections with their products and engage directly with the game.

Our games are roughly two hours and 15 minutes, but the average viewer is watching for approximately 50 minutes. We know that the most efficient way to increase our ratings is not to find someone who isn’t watching at all, but to take those people who are watching an average of 50 minutes and get them to watch 55 minutes. And that’s where changes in the presentations — finding other ways to engage fans, creating other data fields for our viewers, or using different audio experiences like player mics, or different camera angles — can help increase our ratings.

He had a persuasive argument and sufficient clout to sell this.  Again, color me amazed.

And, yeah, I get Jason Kirk’s point that every sport could learn a little something here, but can you think of a single person running a conference or the NCAA who has both the sense and the confidence to walk into CBS, Fox or ESPN and sell something like it?  Sadly, I can’t… at least not without laughing first.


Filed under College Football, ESPN Is The Devil, It's Just Bidness

13 responses to ““It’s a trade-off for our marketing partners.”

  1. Greg

    “How bout them dawgs”..????


  2. Nashville West

    NASCAR and Indy have been running split screen for several years. Doesn’t seem like it has helped their ratings however.


  3. Bulldog Joe

    Good to see the NBA experimenting and focusing on their individual customers (viewers) as well as their corporate customers (advertisers).

    However, some perspective: The NBA’s highest rated 2018 playoff game, the second half of a Golden State – San Antonio game drew a 3.3 share. It’s about the same as an 11:00am Wisconsin – Michigan regular season football game.

    Unfortunately, I don’t see the same thing happening with the conferences in football until their ratings dip to NBA levels.


  4. Dawg1

    Watching TV last night with UGA kid. In 30 min. or less we had watched portions of MLB, MLS, NHL, NBA and Collegiate Baseball and Volleyball.

    Only sport I watch beginning to end (except halftime) is NCAA Football.

    Wonder how they will screw it up?


  5. Ozam

    Soccer somehow manages to have zero commercial breaks and does just fine.


  6. DawgPhan

    The NBA is being running on a lot of the most cutting edge cloud technology around. Their analytics are fully integrated and real time. It is awesome that they are able to derive those sorts of insights to help them improve their business.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Bob

    LOL. Reducing the number of time outs from 18 to 14 is hysterical. And patently absurd. NBA lost me years ago when it takes 30 minutes to play the last 3 minutes of a game with endless timeouts and countless free throws. The NHL is a different sport for sure, but love watching actual action and one timeout per team per game. Doesn’t hurt that all 8 quarter finalists could win the Stanley Cup. Will never be a ratings challenge to the NBA, but if you really want fast paced action, a slam dunk option.


    • hailtogeorgia

      The thing you’re saying drove you away from the NBA is one of the main things Silver tried to address with this; they changed the rule from a maximum of three timeouts in the final two minutes to a maximum of two timeouts in the final three minutes.

      With the NHL, yes, each team only has the one timeout per game, but there are also three two-minute TV timeouts per period. In the NBA, the TV timeouts are built into the teams’ timeouts with two mandatory timeouts per quarter (one charged to each team). To your point, they’re very different games; the NBA can’t accommodate full line changes the way the NHL can, so it’s necessary to have more timeouts.


    • Gaskilldawg

      The point of the post was not whether you like the NBA. The rhetorical question was whether any college football conference commissioner would have the creativity and fortitude to insist on ways to reduce commercial cut-always from the action.

      Your post shared no thoughts about the question posed. Do you think any college football conference commissioner has the creativity and fortitude to insist that a broadcaster change the commercial model?


  8. W Cobb Dawg

    Just scrap the idiotic sec and ncaa promos, and ratings will rise immediately.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. ASEF

    Interesting: the NBAs basic theme here is more product. Pretty simply and pretty obvious. Sure, the devil is in the details, but most of that is just trial and error if you’ve defined the problem correctly.

    CFB’s response to date has been games too long, with the “obvious” solution being less football.

    So, what is CFB most likely to do? Keep trimming games by running more clock, but use the success of approach’s like the NBA as an excuse to make ads even more instrusive.

    The key difference here is pretty stark: the NBA is exercising quality control over their TV partners, while CFB conferences don’t. College administrators tend to operate under the fallacy that quality control is built into the broadcasting model. It’s not. Turnover in broadcast is ridiculous, and broadcast execs tend to be even more short-term goal focused than the rest of corporate America. There is no tomorrow for a lof of these guys and gals.

    In other words, Silver understands the broadcast industry. Sankey? Probably not so much. He probably defers to what ESPN tells him – they’re both the experts and the customer, so he’s doubly incentivized on that front. And ESPN doesn’t have a one damn person on the payroll in charge of caring about SEC football 5 years from now. Not. One.

    Liked by 2 people

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