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Soccer On TV

Finding The Balance Between Soccer and Advertising


Many of you will probably not like what I’m going to say, but I think we as soccer fans, myself included, are very hard to please. We want HD. We don’t want a sports ticker across the bottom. We want a clean presentation on screen with very few bugs, just the beautiful game. We want the best football commentators. We want TV coverage of every game. We want to hear the sound balance to be perfect where we can hear the sound of the crowd. We want to see the players coming down the tunnel before the game. And the list goes on and on.

The question I have for you is, where does advertising fit into all of this?

TV companies are in the business to make money, not to provide us the perfect soccer viewing experience. Yes, by doing the latter TV networks will attract more viewers and it’ll help generate greater TV revenue but I’m sure that many of us would agree that we’d love to have a high quality half-time presentation show with tactical analysis, great pundits, slow-mo action replays and more. Again, to the detriment of advertising.

You have to admit that soccer fans are hard to satisfy. We want the best of the best and we’re a very loud niche audience. We call and e-mail and tweet the satellite and cable providers. We make a lot of noise.

My fear here is that while some soccer networks try hard to provide a quality viewing experience, we’ll never be completely satisfied because our expectations are so high. An ESPN employee on the cruise I just took asked me why I thought it was so hard to please soccer fans. My response was, and I can only answer this from my own personal experience, is that I was brought up on British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and that my lens of how I view my TV experience is based on the benchmark that the BBC set. But that is totally unrealistic. The BBC has no commercials.

The perfect viewing experience for soccer is the BBC model with no advertising, no annoying tickers, just the score in the top left or top right corner, a brilliant commentator and a wonderful pre-game, half-time and post-game show. But, this is completely unrealistic unless we were willing to pay a subscription fee (or license fee, as in the BBC model) but I don’t see that happening.

The one form of advertising that seems to be universally accepted is the advertising signboards around the field and edges of the stadium. They don’t ruin the viewing experience and, while they can be distracting at times, they can also be enjoyable to watch. For example, when Gary Neville scored an own goal for England against Croatia and the advertising signboards flashed up adverts for the movie Borat at precisely the same moment.

For other soccer fans out there such as yourself, what would you say is an appropriate level of advertising either during, before, in the middle or after a game where the TV network can generate revenue to help pay for its very expensive TV rights and hopefully make  a profit — and it doesn’t ruin the TV viewing experience for you. What is that perfect balance? Click the comments link below and share your opinion. I’m really interested in reading your perspective.

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  1. Gene G

    May 29, 2016 at 6:27 pm

    I don’t mind some advertising, but surely plain old boards are less distracting on soccer pitches than the new trend of Vegas-from-hell LED flashing mini-movies. And it would be nice to see the team’s logo actually bigger than the corporate logos on kits. You’d think with all this money coming in, tickets wouldn’t cost an arm and leg…

  2. Leeboy

    February 10, 2010 at 4:54 am

    I think we get a good in the UK with Sky Sports and ESPN. Under UK Law TV channels can show ad breaks no more than 3 minutes in length (excluding promos for TV shows, upcoming matches etc), and limited to no more than 15 minutes in total per hour. This means we get a comprehensive build-up, usually from a studio at the stadium with presenter and a couple of pundits, full starting line-ups, and full commentary not chopped in half by ad breaks. A quick break is taken after the players have run out, but for the full 45 minutes, due to UK Laws on TV advertising, we see no on screen promotions etc, apart from mentions of upcoming matches. Then at half time we get approximately 10 minutes of analysis, with an ad break either side. The TV shows themselves are sponsored, however due to UK advertising Law this doesn’t invade the programme content (ie. Ford sponsor Sky Sports Prem coverage, however there are no Ford logos on the set or mentions of the brand in show). These laws may sound draconian to US viewers, but they make for a much more pleasant viewing experience. I’ve watched FSC online, and the way they chop up and cut the coverage for ad breaks ruins it

  3. Scott

    February 9, 2010 at 10:29 pm

    I don’t mind the advertising that is currently being used on ESPN and FSC…don’t really watch GolTV and have never had Setanta…and, as I’ve mentioned here before I don’t mind the ESPN ticker–though I’m starting to understand others complaints about it.

    I know most footie fans wouldn’t like this, but I’ve wondered why US broadcasters haven’t approached soccer the way TNT has approached NASCAR advertising. TNT has full length commercials, but the split the screen between commercial and the race (sort of like picture in picture). Most NASCAR fans I know like it as they can still watch the race and don’t feel like they miss anything when the network goes to commercial.

    I know most, if not all, footie fans would be incensed at such a set up, but I think it would satisfy both the fans ability to watch the game and the networks need to make revenue. It would definitely be less than ideal, but I think it would be a decent compromise and would enable the networks to make a better profit and therefore be more inclined to show more soccer.

    Just some thoughts.

  4. Spurs Fan

    February 9, 2010 at 4:35 pm

    Thanks for the reply man99utd – I don’t care what they say about you guys – you’re okay!!
    Tried it but to no avail – I guess I knew it was going to end sometime soon. Had all the commentaries on my iphone – unblocked – for over a month. It was awesome. If anyone knows of a service to subscribe to, I am willing to play. Actually enjoy Five Live more than watching FSC – however HD might change things!

  5. man99utd

    February 9, 2010 at 3:42 pm

    Spurs Fan,

    Keep trying to go in and out of the BBC link, sometimes that works for me, sometimes not. Also, depending on the game your listening to, you may find the regional BBC station which may not be blocked.

  6. Spurs Fan

    February 9, 2010 at 2:54 pm

    Just noticed that commentary of todays games on BBC Five Live has been blocked out on my Iphone!! Any ideas??

  7. Robert George

    February 9, 2010 at 12:58 pm

    Very interesting articles and points. So where do I start? Well firstly I would like to say that we are very lucky here in the USA with the amount of live soccer we get compared to the live games in England that are screened as well as the taped delays. I am always telling my my dad back in England what games we get which I do enjoy bragging about. I am trying to get him to come and visit me here in the USA.

    I don’t like American football and I can’t belive that the Americans have in my opinion designed a game built round commericals. I wanna watch a exciting lively game not a commerical for every 5 mins or miss some action as I am in a commercial break.

    I know that television companies have to make a proft and that alot of revenue comes from advertising. But there needs to be a better way. Previous posters have mentioned that we pay a subscription service to these tv channels. Which is why I end up paying a small fortune to Dish Network especially as I love my HD.

    Here are my own opinons on the tv channels that show EPL here in the UK.

    The EPL coverage on ESPN2 is my favourite and not just beacuse of the HD but beacuse I think they are more professional then FSC. They don’t show the ticker for the whole game which is a sign that its showing some respect for us soccer fans. They have a decent half time show and analysis although im personally not too keen on Robbie Mustoe. I like they way we get to see the whole IMG international feed and the warm up before the game. And the fact that they show the commentators name on the screen and not last but least. We get to see a feed from ESPN back in England.

    Setanta is my favs and once again I am going to miss this channel. I used to like seeing the feeds from the UK and Ireland. We would get to see the whole of the IMG feed and we would not be bombarded with commericals. Even with a delayed broadcast we would get straight to the game. There would hardly be any advertising during the games and to me Setanta is worth every best part of $15.

    FSC to me is kind of tacky. It reminds me of a tv commerical for a local country radio station here in Kentucky whose tag line is “commericals, commericals and more commericals. I say that to my wife when she watchs American Football. But I think FSC needs to take a more proffesional approach to the way they show the beautiful game.

    I hate the banners during the games. I hate the way the screen size changes and the amount of crap they put on the screen during a game. I know FSC is not a charity. So how could FSC make things better?

    I think there advertising marketing department needs a whole revamp. I don’t think they are attracting the correct advertisters.

    They could make there website more professional looking and attract advertising there and perhaps get rid of the MSN tie up.

    I have seen VIP communications and Penny talk advertise international calling on there channels and I have used both products but why are they not selling advertising to Vonage. I use Vonage as I get free international phone calls included in the price. Theres a huge market there for Vonage especically with the Ex Pats who watch this channel.

    They need to get the Guinness advertising back and aim there advertising and marketing at the range of people who watch that channel.

    Maybe they need to get a sponsor for the games like they do in the UK for tv programmes. The Everton v Liverpool game is sponsored by so and so.

    They already have the half time show sponsored by VW.

    IF FSC wanna save money then get rid of there commentators and half time shows and just show commericals.

    Or why not just show the Sky Sports feed if they are showing the same game.

    I don’t think local advertising will work on FSC as ROB G has said. I know very few people here in KY who actually watch FSC. The problem is we are a minority sport with a loud voice.

    • Robert George

      February 9, 2010 at 1:31 pm

      Cable and Sat show same channels but on some channels advertising will be slightly different and in some cases shown for local markets. Eg Dish and Cable on Discovery and BBC America show different advertising.

    • RobG

      February 9, 2010 at 3:52 pm

      “Local” to the country you are viewing in. In other words, watchers in America could see American company advertisements rather than Carplan or Betfair or Rainham Steel. The carriers for the EPL feed in various markets could sell the rights on the boards and split the revenue with the team/leage. You could sell the rights to the same boards to dozens of different companies in different markets.

      This is assuming of course that the technology exists to edit the advertising unobtrusivbely in the broadcast feed itself.

  8. AtlantaPompey

    February 9, 2010 at 12:29 pm

    On screen advertising does not bother me, mainly because I’m used to it while watching American sports. I don’t really care much for pre-game, halftime, or post-game commentary and analysis in any sport. The ticker does bother me some, but only because of it’s frequency. If it were limited, I would not mind it at all. Advertising boarding is fine, if sometimes a little distracting. Advertising boards positioned for television cameras in baseball are green so that different advertising can be placed on it by computer. This allows for more revenue for television.

    As for paying for FSC/Setanta/ESPN/etc: I pay the extra for Setanta and have for several years now. I view it as cheaper than going to the pub to watch Pompey. I spend $15 a month on Setanta. How much would I spend going to the pub to watch Pompey just once? Probably around that much. I’m pretty sure I’ll pay extra for FS+. I’ve thought about ditching it altogether. With a child on the way, our budget is about to get tighter. I’ll find somewhere else to cut most likely.

  9. MarkB

    February 9, 2010 at 12:16 pm

    Although I’m grateful for any coverage, FSC is starting to annoy me more and more with their onscreen advertising. I guess I’m different from a lot of viewers in that my ideal broadcast only requires the following: a decent picture, the team lineups, good announcers and a good sound mix for atmosphere. I don’t care about prematch, halftime or postmatch analysis, especially the FSC “experts” in their stupid fake pub. That’s why I love DVR so much. Turn it on, skip past the talking heads, see the lineups, watch the first half, skip the talking heads, watch the second half, move on to the next match.

  10. Jose Hernandez

    February 9, 2010 at 11:46 am

    You forgot to mention, that most of the soccer programming in this country comes via pay tv. The last time I check, we do pay for the FSC, Fox en espaniol and ESPN. Must of the spanish channels that broadcast the game are very respectful of the viewing pleasure.

    Football, unfortunately is not an Ad friendly sport like all American sports. And putting all these ads while the game is going on, is annoying to say the least. Remember, the purpose of Ads is to catch your attention, not to annoy the hell out of you.

    • nicc

      February 9, 2010 at 1:15 pm

      I do not know what TV provider you use, but I have never directly paid for FSC or ESPN, whether that be with FiOS or when I had Comcast years ago.

      I do pay for Setanta (future FS+?) and the sports pack so I can get GolTV and FSE

      • ovalball

        February 9, 2010 at 7:34 pm

        But you DO pay to get that access. Comcast or whoever don’t give it to you for free—-I think that was Jose’s point.

  11. ovalball

    February 9, 2010 at 11:32 am

    I have no problem with the advertising as it is. It is what brings us the matches in the first place and allows us to watch them uninterrupted.

    Slightly off the subject, but I do wonder who the ProActiv ads are aimed at. The massive female audience?

  12. JR

    February 9, 2010 at 11:27 am

    I’m tired of being held in a stranglehold just because I live in the US (Texas). I can’t stand fsc (how many hours of infomercials do they play now?), and I refuse to pay for the new channel because of the way fsc is run. I’d be more than willing to pay extra to get Setanta Ireland or Setanta Canada if I could. Espn will never be a good competitor with Murdoch because of its complete devotion to pro and college football.

    We need more competition, or barring that, the ability to erase national lines.

  13. brn442

    February 9, 2010 at 10:58 am

    Soccer is not as commercial friendly as its American sports counterparts, there aren’t any timeouts, quarters, or two minute warnings to stuff adverts in.
    Even though it will probably happen in our lifetimes, the longer we can avoid the actual game coming to a screeching halt to stick a commercial in, the better. In return soccer viewers have had to put up with sponsorship on shirts, stadia, leagues, cup, even teams.

    Sponsor creep can still be annoying: The EPL is the only major league that has resisted allowing teams putting secondary sponsors on shirts/shorts so far but for how long?

    I do notice that the banners during the FSC matches have gotten bigger and appear more often and I’m sure producers will continue to go in that direction until there is some sort of backlash.

  14. Efrain

    February 9, 2010 at 10:18 am

    Exactly what RobG said.

    Pregame, halftime, postgame advertising is fine. When ESPN was advertising Axe for their EPL games, I also went out and bought the stuff (for my son) to help support the advertiser. I logged into as well to help support that advertiser. etc.

    Even monthly fees are okay by me as long as I can watch every/any EPL, CL, etc.

    Commercials, fees, etc….. and in return, a high quality HD picture and nice presentation for every game!

  15. Jesse

    February 9, 2010 at 9:52 am

    While attempting to form an idea for this comment section my mind has been subconciously diverted with no real explanation to a mysterous green bottle that promises all the best of Dutch lager.

    Sorry Gaffer that I couldn’t be more of an asset, but a red star is clouding my thought process. Better drive in my Ford to purchase said lager with my MasterCard.

    Wait a second,…….!

    • The Gaffer

      February 9, 2010 at 10:13 am

      Jesse, good points. A lot of the advertising impacts us subconsciously as well as consciously, so when we order a Heineken at a bar or buy a Ford instead of a Toyota, these things may be impacted by the amount of advertising we’ve been conditioned to seeing from those two companies over years of watching soccer on television.

      The Gaffer

  16. man99utd

    February 9, 2010 at 9:51 am

    I don’t mind the quick banners across the bottom of the screen or the advert flash beside the FSC logo. I wouldn’t mind a subscription fee as long as that means no commericals ala BBC. The game doesn’t stop and start and football fans are not going to agree to the NASCAR model of breaking away from the action. I would even go along with a limtied halftime show and 10 minutes of commericals. Radical, but as the gaffer stated the BBC model just isn’t going to happen.

  17. RobG

    February 9, 2010 at 8:29 am

    As an American viewer, I understand the need for the network to make a profit, and advertising is fine with me. I actually make a point of buying products from the advertisers on FSC as my own little contribution to the growth of soccer on American TV.

    I gladly pay a subscription fee for soccer, even with advertising, especially if it gives access to all the EPL games in HD. For me, $15-$30/month is a bargain considering the hours and hours of entertainment received. It would be an even better deal if I could get soccer programming ala carte in HD through the internet and jettison the cable/satellite provider all together.

    Do the networks get a cut of signboard revenue? I thought that belonged to the stadium and league.

    Advertising before the game, during halftime, and afterward is fine. I don’t mind the little banners in the top right corner either. I want FSC and ESPN to make a shit load of money off of soccer. If it isn’t being done already, they should create a computer program that would replace the signboard advertising on your TV screen with more localized ads sold by the networks. The more money they make, the more soccer will grow as a televised sport in the US.

    • The Gaffer

      February 9, 2010 at 10:22 am

      RobG, excellent points. As for the signboard revenue, the TV networks don’t get any of that revenue. The advertising signboard space is usually sold by an agency who takes a cut of the money and shares most of it with the football club.

      I like your idea about improving the technology of the advertising signboards and making it dynamic so local advertising can be displayed. But I think that happening anytime soon is doubtful.

      I read with interest your comment where you said you buy products from companies that advertise on FSC. I would encourage all readers who appreciate those advertisers to send them a tweet via Twitter thanking them for sponsoring FSC. That will go a long way to getting the message across.

      The Gaffer

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