Sports galore

Marketplace Staff Jun 22, 2006


MARK AUSTIN THOMAS: If you’re a sports fan, this is Christmas time. You’ve got World Cup, The US Open, Stanley Cup Playoffs, NBA Finals, the World Series of Poker . . . I could go on and on. David Carter is the Director of the USC Sports Business Institute. I asked him why we’re seeing this collision of TV sporting events and is this an overdose for viewers?

DAVID CARTER: No I don’t think it’s an overdose, because I think what happens is there’s an audience for every event that’s out there. Some of these audiences might be small, they might be niche audiences, but the advertisers like that. I mean think back a decade or so ago and think about golf. We just finished up the US Open. A couple of decades ago, if you wanted to buy golf you had to buy Wide World of Sports. Maybe a decade or so ago if you wanted to buy golf, maybe you bought a tournament that was being broadcast on one of the three major networks. Today you can buy the Golf Channel. So I think the advertisers really welcome this fragmentation because I think it allows them to reach their audiences again with greater precision

MARK AUSTIN THOMAS: So who is the audience for all these events? Were they always out there?

DAVID CARTER: I think they were always out there. I think what you’ve seen is a lot of emerging leagues come about. Again, you mentioned poker but there’s lacrosse, there’s ultimate fighting, there are other events that are working their way onto the mainstream sports landscape. And now because of the growing cable TV universe and because there are more ways to reach fans I think you’re seeing these grow in popularity.

MARK AUSTIN THOMAS: How has the TIVO-ization of America changed the way we watch and what we expect in terms of how sporting events are scheduled?

DAVID CARTER: I don’t think it’s just about how they’re scheduled that’s making a difference. I think it’s how they’re produced, how they’re packaged and for me this proliferation of sports on TV has provided these fans with just a smorgasbord. They can watch anytime, anything they want. You consider satellite TV, you look at the distribution to cell phones, and all of a sudden sports fans can watch what they want and when they want and I think to a certain extent that’s made it tricky for broadcasters. These broadcasters have paid a lot of money for the rights to these events and so scheduling is largely up to them. They’re the ones that are paying the freight, they’re the ones that help dictate when an event’s going to be broadcast. And listen, it may not be perfect for the hardcore fans but if you’re trying to generate casual audiences to tune in and you’re trying to build the sport, you have to take it where you can get it and the broadcast networks are dictating a lot of the timing.

MARK AUSTIN THOMAS: Let’s talk about ABC. It’s had to juggle the NBA Finals and the World Cup. How does that work?

DAVID CARTER: Well it’s not so much a juggling act I don’t think, because you could argue that these are not exactly the same targeted demographics: The NBA fan that might be wanting to watch the finals may not be the same as the ones watching the World Cup. Also you have the World Cup is going to be on ESPN, the World Cup is also on ESPN2. There’s a lot of international coverage of it. So these are distinctly different sports. And I think if you’re ABC, it also gives you a chance through the Walt Disney Company I guess to be more precise about it, you have the opportunity to sell advertising to a much broader number of potential advertisers and sponsors because they’re reaching different audiences. One is decidedly more domestic than the other, the types of corporations involved are different as well. So the juggling act there I think is a fine one but I think they’re doing a really good job of that.

MARK AUSTIN THOMAS: David Carter is director of the USC Sport Business Institute. And in Los Angeles, I’m Mark Austin Thomas. Thanks for joining us. Have a great day!

There’s a lot happening in the world.  Through it all, Marketplace is here for you. 

You rely on Marketplace to break down the world’s events and tell you how it affects you in a fact-based, approachable way. We rely on your financial support to keep making that possible. 

Your donation today powers the independent journalism that you rely on. For just $5/month, you can help sustain Marketplace so we can keep reporting on the things that matter to you.