Soccer won’t make it big in the US because it doesn’t have enough time for commercials?

Forget cultural differences; perhaps soccer won’t make it big in the United States because there is not enough money to be made.

“Soccer is the least profitable sport on the planet,” says Stefan Szymanski, professor of sports management at the University of Michigan and co-author of Soccernomics. “The whole structure of soccer is totally at variance with the America model.”…

In America, TV contracts have a lot to do with a sport’s profitability. MLS recently took a step toward the big leagues with new contracts that will generate around $90 million in revenue per year, the most ever for the league. But that’s puny compared with leagues such as the NFL, which takes in about $5 billion per year from TV rights. The visibility generated by saturation TV coverage helps the NFL earn even more revenue from sponsorships, ticket fees and licensing deals.

It might be unfair to compare the MLS with the NFL, which is the world’s most profitable sports league and an almost unexplainable phenomenon. But pro soccer in the U.S. may face a chicken-and-egg problem that prevents it from ever following in the NFL’s cleats. Most NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL teams manage to be profitable whether they win or lose. That’s because of revenue-sharing deals, salary caps and other equalizers meant to keep leagues competitive and owners satisfied…

“The MLS is pursuing the America business model, which means it’s not pouring billions into making it successful but is actually limiting player spending,” Szymanski says. “There are probably 30 soccer leagues that spend more on wages per team than the MLS — including the Romanian soccer league.”

I wonder how American sports fans would react to the idea that sports “work” in the US because owners can make lots of money. Sure, the sports may be interesting and the athletes impressive but the owners have to make money and there have to be lots of commercials. The average football game has about 11 minutes of gameplay. It’s more like the sports play around the commercial breaks.

Does this mean American sports don’t really follow a free market model? It sounds more like team owners work together to guarantee their profitability and then others on the outside, like various corporations and television networks, can try to make money.

TV execs, advertisers, going after graying TV audience

After years of chasing the 18-to-49 demographic, TV may be shifting its target audience as the American population ages.

The median age of a broadcast television viewer is now the highest ever at 54. Twenty years ago, it was 41. The most-watched scripted series in the 1993-94 season was “Home Improvement,” with a median viewer age of 34. Today, it’s “NCIS,” with a median viewer who is 61.

Confronted with these realities, the networks are aggressively making the case to advertisers that older viewers are valuable — especially the affluent and influential 55-to-64-year-olds they’re calling “alpha boomers.” The 50-and-up crowd of today, they contend, is far different than the frugal and brand-loyal group that came of age during the Great Depression and World War II…

Younger adults, busy with school, careers, socializing and child-rearing, have always watched less TV. Now they’re even harder to find, thanks to technology that allows them to watch TV whenever and wherever they want, and to skip over commercials…

A decade ago, networks primarily sold ad inventory for prime-time shows based on how many 18-to-49-year-olds were watching at home. Now, network sales teams are emphasizing other metrics, such as income and education level of viewers.

The population bulge known as the baby boomers continue to influence American society. There was a really nice infographic in the Chicago Tribune version of this story (I can’t seem to find it online) that clearly shows some of the patterns across networks: CBS has the highest median age where even their “younger shows,” like How I Met Your Mother and 2 Broke Girls, have a median viewer around 50. The youngest network, by far, is Fox with six shows with a median age under 40 whereas no other network has 1 show under 40 and each only have a few under 50.

It would be interesting to then compare these shifts on television to other areas of advertising and marketing. Can advertisers move away from targeting young people on television because it is so much more effective to target them on social media and websites? Or is television still such a big deal even with declining numbers that Internet advertising still can’t compare?

Linking the Ace Hardware home and Wisteria Lane

Following up on a post regarding an odd-looking home in recent Ace Hardware commercials and a comment on the post that the Ace home was located on Wisteria Lane in the TV show Desperate Housewives, here is another look at the home courtesy of Wikipedia:

File:KathrynsHouse.JPG

While the Ace commercial made the house gave the house even more odd proportions in order to fit an Ace sign on the front, the house is still odd. Too many gables that stick out too far plus a really odd second story window that barely fits between the two gables.

Here is more about Wisteria Lane:

In preparing for the pilot, the Desperate Housewives production team searched a 30-minute radius of Hollywood for a suburb in which to film the show, but nothing was quite right. The production team initially looked into purchasing a block of actual houses for filming, however they felt the houses looked too similar and lacked character. So they went with Plan B – a studio backlot.

Only two studios in Hollywood have significant backlots, Warner Brothers and Universal. Warner Brothers had half a street, with houses on one side and a park on the other, but there was no sense of community, but Universal had Colonial Street – a collection of rundown house fronts that lined both sides of the street, and were close enough together to look good on camera.

The only problem was that the houses are only three-quarter scale. The team had to deal with the challenges of the unnatural – the houses being too small and too close and the sidewalks not as wide as the real thing, but the show is a parable and a slightly less-than-real look became an advantage, and added to the suburban perfection on film…

At first, the houses were just facades, with interiors built on a sound stage, but once Housewives was picked up, something unique was done for the show, interiors were created, including Susan’s kitchen and Mary Alice’s living room, and Gabrielle could go in the front door and into the main floor of her house. This created a unique filming style which allowed viewers to watch a scene inside a house and look out through the windows into the street – creating a real sense of community.

To help audiences identify the different characters quickly, the team devised a colour palette system based on the characters personality and traits. They looked for colours that were intriguing, and then matched them up, these colour palettes are carried out in each character’s house exterior and interior. For example Gabrielle Solis was set with warm orange-yellow tones to hint at her spicy Latino nature. Whereas Susan Mayer’s character has more feminine sensibilities, demonstrated by the use of pastel colours.

So perhaps the real problem with the poorly proportioned house was that it was a 3/4 scale. Still, even a full scale version of the house might look at little busy in the front.

Thanksgiving football game = 11 minutes of action, over 100 ads

Football is America’s favorite sport but the average NFL broadcast doesn’t actually contain much football:

The NFL’s popularity is all the more remarkable when you inspect the fare it has to offer each week on television. An average professional football game lasts 3 hours and 12 minutes, but if you tally up the time when the ball is actually in play, the action amounts to a mere 11 minutes…

The 11 minutes of action was famously calculated a few years ago by the Wall Street Journal. Its analysis found that an average NFL broadcast spent more time on replays (17 minutes) than live play. The plurality of time (75 minutes) was spent watching players, coaches, and referees essentially loiter on the field.

An average play in the NFL lasts just four seconds.

Of course, watching football on TV is hardly just about the game; there are plenty of advertisements to show people, too. The average NFL game includes 20 commercial breaks containing more than 100 ads. The Journal’s analysis found that commercials took up about an hour, or one-third, of the game.

As this piece correctly notes, this is partly due to the rules of the game where there is down time between plays. At the same time, the NFL broadcasts go out of their way to add commercial breaks. Consider a sequence like this: touchdown scored, kick the extra point, commercial break, kickoff, commercial break. This happens all the time.

For contrast, watch high school or lower level college football. These games still have breaks between plays but the drop-off in wasted time for commercials is astounding.

One other note: if it weren’t for all the commercials, would the networks still show football games?

Commercials that market smartphones as education devices shouldn’t fool many

In the past few months, I’ve heard several commercials for smartphones that suggest kids can and will use them for educational purposes. When your child needs help on their homework, they can whip out their phone and find the answer.

Who do they think they are fooling? While parents want to hear about helping their kids succeed in school (this is an American constant over the decades), these commercials offer implausible possibilities. Kids could use their phone for homework or studying. But, I suspect the smartphone is used for two other tasks that will far outweigh educational purposes: social interaction (texting, chatting, Facebook, etc.) and media consumption (music, YouTube, TV and movies, etc.). The real education provided here might be in how to be a media-saturated, 21st century American kid.

This may be effective marketing but it also hints at another issue: the idea that new technological devices automatically lead to more learning. Where is the evidence for this? We can argue that kids needs to keep up with technology to understand and use it for their good like applying for jobs. We can argue the new technology engages kids. We can argue the technology can open up new opportunities like forming and maintaining beneficial relationships or learning how to code. But, suggesting it actually leads to more learning is a more difficult case to make.

My conclusion: such commercials play off the interests of parents who would say they want to help their kids succeed without marshalling much evidence that the new smartphone will help kids learn.