Marketing genius

Once thing that I continually marveled at during the period when major league baseball struggled to come to grips with player free agency is how the owners would consistently trash their own product in trying to best the players’ union.  As business strategies go, it was questionable at best and headshakingly stupid at worst.

I heard a faint echo of that when I saw Chris Fowler’s comment about the college football playoffs.

ESPN college football announcer Chris Fowler told reporters on a conference call there is a “massive need for fresh blood” in the field, although he acknowledged the reality that consistent success by Clemson and Alabama leads to fewer spots being available for teams in other regions of the country.

“Any Playoff bracket is better served when there are contenders distributed around the country, just so fans can become more invested in it,” Fowler said. “You just like to have teams from all over, playing into November in true Playoff contention. It makes the regular season more compelling for more fans. But hey, there’s not much room.”

This year’s semis had Notre Dame and Oklahoma, but never mind that, I guess.

What I really love there is the “true Playoff contention” measure, as if there’s something phony about excluding the Pac-12 from the CFP.  When you strip Fowler’s observation down to the essentials, it’s all about the company line that the playoffs should be constructed for a national audience that doesn’t care about the regular season as much as fans following a regional product do, because everybody is sure the latter will stick through whatever Mickey and his broadcast partners foist on us.

So what if there’s a little trashing of the product they’re bringing us now along the way.  It’s all for a greater cause, right?


Filed under BCS/Playoffs, ESPN Is The Devil

14 responses to “Marketing genius

  1. Fowler let his employer’s secret slip. Some college football fans wanted a playoff so badly they did not care who offered it. The ESPN Invitational is a for profit enterprise, no matter what its tax filing states. It’s major owner is a national broadcast network that needs viewers in Southern California and the New York area, and wants those broadcast markets to have local participants. It knows it can’t sell a field that takes a PAC 12 three loss team over a SEC champ, but it would love to be able to promote a 1 loss PAC 12 team over a 1 loss team from the SEC or Big 10.
    Fans got sold a bill of goods.


    • Union Jack

      I’ll be interested in seeing what the ratings are for this game. Last year’s game was the 2nd highest rated television event in cable history. It featured two teams less than 300 miles apart playing in Atlanta.

      This year’s semifinals were down 25% compared to last year but they played on Saturday instead of NYD.

      Fowler’s position is the direct opposite ESPN’s baseball programming which for years has shown a “regional” interest rivalry Red Sox/Yankees ad nauseam even in years when those teams were clearly not the best in baseball because it delivered ratings.

      ESPN will never get a “home” team from NYC since NYU & St. John’s don’t have football and Columbia plays in the Ivy League.

      Finally – Atlanta is THE most important television market for college football. It is the only top 10 market where the most covered/fan supported team is a college football team.

      Now Fowler might argue that Atlanta will always watch college football no matter who is playing. I would bet that if the NC featured Michigan vs UCLA or Syracuse vs Washington St most of Atlanta will tune out. That will not be good for the overall ratings.


      • Macallanlover

        Doubt mosty would tune out, but your comment is on point in many ways. He is right that more fans would be invested if there were geographical inclusion (what conferences used to provide but has some variance now.) An expanded playoff would not only get more eyeballs on the playoff, the regular season would, wait for it, “just mean more”. Win, win.


  2. 81Dog

    This is stupid. All the P5 teams have an equal opportunity to get in the playoff, the ones who are in are demonstrably better. If the Pac 12 and Big 10 want in play better. Just like the rest of the SEC and ACC has to do if they want in including UGA


  3. Go Dawgs!

    No, Chris, the playoff bracket is not better served by teams from other parts of the country being involved. Your employer’s ratings for the playoff would be better served by other regions involved, and therefore their money and their ability to pay you more money would be better served. But the playoff bracket? It’s best if the best teams are in. And the best teams in college football are concentrated in the southeastern United States with few notable exceptions.

    Notre Dame isn’t one of them.


  4. Bulldog Joe

    “You just like to have teams from all over, playing into November in true Playoff contention.”

    I don’t get this statement. We have this in November. And December, too.


  5. ” it’s all about the company line that the playoffs should be constructed for a national audience that doesn’t care about the regular season as much as fans following a regional product do, because everybody is sure the latter will stick through whatever Mickey and his broadcast partners foist on us.”

    Bingo. Trying to NFL CFB


  6. Anonymous

    I will preface this comment with a reminder to everyone that I am a proponent of returning to the old Bowl ‘n’ Poll system. I preferred the game when it was a regional one. I think the point of the season is to beat your rivals and win your Conference championship. Then, when the biased yankee media awarded the NC to someone undeserving, it didn’t matter.

    That said, ESPN is an entertainment company. They exist for the purpose of producing and broadcasting sports programming. They are trying to appeal to as wide of an audience as possible by making a product that is appealing to the widest audience possible. They know that casual sports fans are more likely to watch all of the playoff games if a local team in is the first round.

    I’m not trying to take this to play-pen level, but all this bitching a kvetching is the exact same thing as the left’s “muh evil profits” narrative of capitalism… just substitute CFB with the environment. Attributing bad intentions to others is not a good look.


    • Believe me, I understand what ESPN’s interests are.

      I just don’t understand why it’s necessary to have one of your leading CFB spokespeople crap on the very product you’re paying millions to broadcast.


      • Anonymous

        I think the question there is if he was told to say those things by the ESPN brass or if those are his sincere beliefs? Some people love the game and want as many people as possible to love it too.


        • Loving the game by crapping on it sounds like a variation of the old “we had to destroy the village in order to save it” Vietnam rationale.


          • Anonymous

            Maybe he thinks that offering proposals that he thinks will improve the game is not “crapping on it”. This gets back to ascribing intentions again.


  7. The Dawg abides

    I’m more and more coming to the realization that the four super-conference model you’ve mentioned before may be the most pragmatic solution. To me it beats expansion to 8 and doing away with the conference championship games. Bust up the Big 12 and add to the remaining conferences, with 16 in each. Someone would have to get bumped out for Notre Dame (Rutgers?, Iowa State?). Everyone plays a nine game schedule. Conference championship games serve as quarter-finals.


  8. For the life of me I can’t understand how this man has the job he has. I’ll get bashed for saying it but his style and delivery are terrible. His gut-clenched howls on every play are simply annoying. His dissing of having games in Athens back in the day wasn’t lost of me either.