Whoa … that is one BIG flat-screen

Marketplace Staff Feb 1, 2007

Whoa … that is one BIG flat-screen

Marketplace Staff Feb 1, 2007


KAI RYSSDAL: Back to the Super Bowl for just a second. Here’s the obligatory mention of the cost of a television commercial during the big game: it’s about $2.6 million for 30 seconds this year.

But what if an advertiser didn’t have to worry about the network? What if they could do something bigger and better. Say, an actual video ad right there on the field at Dolphin Stadium? How much you figure they’d pay for that?

Alex Goldmark reports technology might give us the answer in just a few short years.

ALEX GOLDMARK: They call it “Turf TV” because, well, it can turn football field turf into a television.

MARK NICHOLLS: Not, you know, high definition, but it’s comparable to a regular television screen. There’s 1,160 pixels per square foot.

Mark Nicholls

is CEO of Sportexe

, the company that makes the field. They put fiber-optic “straws,” as he calls them, inside each little strand of fake grass.

But besides that, he says it’s a normal turf field.

NICHOLLS: Plays the same, looks the same, has the same durability. The difference

is is shooting up through the middle of that straw is light. And when we can determine what and in what configuration those light up in, with the push of a button it can look like a football field. And with the push of another button it can be a soccer field.

And a Saturday Night Fever-style flashing floor for a halftime show even. Which I, personally ,wouldn’t want to be standing on when it starts to rain.

NICHOLLS: Yeah. I think one of the common misconceptions is that you actually are gonna get electrocuted by it. Fiber optics have nothing to do with electricity at all. It’s a transfer of light. So there’s no chance of anyone being electrocuted.

And fiber optics have some other potentially useful properties.

NICHOLLS: So as you walk down the field, I could essentially light your footprints behind you. When that receiver is . . . is catching the ball and sliding out of bounds, I can actually light exactly where they touched the ground.

Instant replay gets a makeover. But a field like that costs a pretty penny. As much as $1.5 million. About five times the cost of a conventional turf field.

So owners who buy Turf TV will want it to pay for itself somehow. Maybe in the new Giants stadium, say, to switch the end zone colors from Giants blue to Jets green without the cost of repainting or replanting turf each week.

Or, it could mean a whole new kind of in-stadium ad.

NICHOLLS: Well, from an advertising standpoint, the field is a computer screen. You can do anything on it you want.

If it’s allowed. The NFL prohibits ads on playing surfaces. But they say they don’t have a policy about fiber-optic fields . . . yet.

College stadiums are a bit more lax. Allstate already paints their logo on the nets between goalposts used during a field goal kick.

JOHN HAEGELE: So you see the net being raised and all of a sudden there is a reveal to the Allstate logo with the hands. The kick is made and everyone’s focused on that net. And in many cases, know, what we always like to see is the ball going right into the hands.

John Haegele

is COO of Van Wagner Sports Group

. They sell the ads for five to six figures per net, depending on the school.

So if goalposts nets are making stadiums good money, then it’s not hard to imagine the temptation of a field that can play video ads.

Sports purists might worry this could take ads even farther than when Major League Baseball painted home plate to promote the Spider Man 2 movie.

ADAM SALACUSE: There is definitely a fine line between being present and being annoying.

Adam Salacuse

is an expert in going far, but not too far with advertising. Ad agencies turn to his firm, Alt Terrain

media, for tasteful, unconventional exposure. Like 3-D moving billboards with live actors inside them.

SALACUSE: We usually advise clients along the lines saying this will be, you know, accepted or embraced by consumers. But if you do too much of it or if you do it the wrong places, there will be issues.

And if the 50-yard line starts flashing a beer logo during every time out, will consumers start throwing bottles instead of buying them?

In New York, I’m Alex Goldmark for Marketplace.

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