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Guest Blog: Fraser on Those Damned Commercials

Grant Fraser, founder of the Golf Management Institute, was none too pleased with the seemingly endless commercials during the final round of the British Open. I must admit to having watched it on PVR, so I just delayed viewing by an hour and a half and skipped the commercials. Anyway, Fraser asked if I’d post the first guest blog in several years on this site, and I enjoyed his perspective, so here goes:

Watching the 2008 British Open Championship on ABC

Means “Another Break in Coverage” or Watching

“Another Bloody Commercial”

By: Grant Fraser

Was I imagining things or did it seem like there were an inordinate number of commercials during this past weekend’s airing of the British Open Championship?

This year the 137th edition of the Open Championship was played at Royal Birkdale in England, and, as in the past, was televised by the American Broadcasting Company (ABC).  As I have done for many years, I anxiously woke up early on Sunday morning to watch the final round of golf’s third major and arguably most coveted championship. Despite the absence of Tiger Woods, this year’s Open Championship was turning out to be one for the ages (literally) as 53-year old Greg Norman held a 2-shot lead over Irishman and local favorite Padraig Harrington going into the final round. In addition to the resurgence of the Great White Shark and his quest for a third Open title, the weather also emerged as a headline news story. Relentless 40 mph winds wreaked havoc from start to finish resulting in stratospheric scores typically reserved for those of us who work in the industry but don’t make our living playing the game.

The Sunday morning telecast began at 8am EST. ABC’s versatile commentator Mike Tirico was joined by Paul Azinger and 5-time Open Champion Tom Watson to provide final round coverage. The stage was set for a great morning of golf and I was as excited as ever anxiously awaiting the 9:20am final pairing of Greg Norman and Padraig Harrington.

It was within the first hour of watching the event that I noticed the coverage being interrupted for yet another commercial break. Perhaps I was expecting something similar to watching the Masters on CBS or even the Open Championship on Britain’s own BBC where commercials are the exception not the norm.

To confirm my suspicions, I decided to count the number of commercials ABC aired over a 70-minute period (between 9:47 am and 10:57am) during final round coverage. In addition, I also timed the length of each commercial break. To my surprise, here is what I discovered:

Commercial Start Time | Commercial End Time | Number of Commercials

9:47am | 9:51am | 7

10:04am| 10:05am | 4

10:11am | 10:15am | 5

10:17am | 10:20am |  7

10:31am | 10:34am | 1

10:40am | 10:42am | 4

10:53am | 10:57am | 6

That’s 34 commercials over a 21 minute time frame. Phrased another way, if you didn’t move off your couch you spent 30% of your time watching television commercials; the majority of which promoted upcoming new shows soon to be aired on ABC stations. Despite my limited “research”, it became obvious that as I continued to watch the final round unfold this 70-minute segment would be indicative of ABC’s entire broadcast.

All of this leads me to ask the following question: Do the programmers at ABC really think people actually watch all of the commercials they televise? After 11am I found myself changing the channel at every commercial break only to return 3 minutes later to the live action.

So what is an avid golf enthusiast to do? Assuming ABC makes no programming changes in 2009, I’ve decided to do one of two things. I’m either going to go to next year’s Open Championship at Turnberry in Scotland or I’ll set my PVR to record the broadcast. Either way, I’ll be sure to do all that I can to avoid ABC’s “another break in coverage” or showing of “another bloody commercial”.

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Robert Thompson

A bestselling author and award-winning columnist, Robert Thompson has been writing about business and sports, and particularly golf, for almost two decades. His reporting and commentary on golf has appeared in Golf Magazine, the Globe and Mail, T&L Golf and many other media outlets. Currently Robert is a columnist with Global Golf Post, golf analyst for Global News and Shaw Communications, and Senior Writer to ScoreGolf. The Going for the Green blog was launched in 2004.

4 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Two comments on this.

    Tsn should also be blamed, they have the rights, they have the choice to pick up BBC if they so chose. They did not, and seeing as ESPN owns part of TSN I guess we’ll never see BBC coverage.

    Second, I know a very good portion of canadians watched the BBC coverage over the internet, its only a million times better. No commercials, no commentators blabbing on, no “essays”, just GOLF.

  • Hold up! While I love the Masters coverage each year due to the limite dcommercial breaks, the volume of commercials (in absolute time) you saw is realtively indicative of that which is the standard for Canadian telelvision whereby 16 minutes of each hour (i.e. 26.7%) is dedicated to commercial advsertising, and is the reason your television cable bill is not twice the price it currently is. While this may be annoying its not that dissimilar to any other show. And who cares what they are advertising? Good point on the BBC streaming ove rthe Internet…sounds like an excellent alternative. I would rather complain about the three individuals chosen to provide the in-booth commentary. Talk about boring!

  • PVR’s only fault with live TV is when there is overtime or overrun, it cuts off. you have to remember to record the time slot afterwards or manually set recording times. I’ve been burned countless times even with network shows.

    Mine’s cut off just when Harrington was about to hit his 2nd on the 18th hole….thank goodness I had the 17th hole recorded.

  • I only watched limited amounts of the broadcast on the weekend, but I watched quite a bit on Thursday and Friday. What I noticed most was how long it seemed to take in between live action shots of the golf. They’d show a golf shot and then cut to commercials, an essay, the commentators, some graphics, fast cut scenes, shots of fans, the water (in the distance), interviews with players, etc…It may have been just me, but I could have swore that they’d sometimes take 20 mins or more between showing actual live shots of players on the course. Add in all of the commercial interruptions and it seemed to take forever to watch that broadcast.

    Jeff – there’s something to be said here about commercial interruptions keeping our costs down while we pay $20/ month to rent a DVR so we can fast forward through commercials. If there was more pressure on these turkeys to be cost competitive, maybe they’d be forced to find some savings internally, instead of running commercials, and pass those on to the consumer…

    If you know me, you know that I have a major problem with Mike Tirico. If you think he seems to know too many inane facts a little too quickly & too often, you’re right. He has a self-made spreadsheet that he brings along to every broadcast (read this in an interview once). So, next time it sounds like he’s just spouting off bullet points, it’s because he is just spouting off bullet points.

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