Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Sports and Politics

No, I'm not going to write about Ray Rice. Today, I'm thinking about a much bigger picture.

It all starts with something from the Washington Post that leads to a point I've been making for a while now: TV is increasingly for old people.
TV is increasingly for the old, and the Internet is for the young, according to new research by media analyst Michael Nathanson of Moffett Nathanson Research.

The median age of a broadcast or cable television viewer during the 2013-2014 TV season was 44.4 years old, a 6 percent increase in age from four years earlier. Audiences for the major broadcast network shows are much older and aging even faster, with a median age of 53.9 years old, up 7 percent from four years ago...

For younger audiences, control over when and where they watch has driven the trend away from traditional television. Live television viewing was down 13 percent for all ages except for viewers 55 years and older, who are steadily watching their shows at their scheduled broadcast time.
Speaking as someone who has bucked that trend (I'm over 55 and don't watch cable or broadcast TV), I can tell you that the benefits of streaming what you want to see when you want to see it are just the beginning. There's also the fact that subscriptions to things like Netflix are significantly cheaper than cable or satellite TV. And then there's the HUGE benefit of no commercials.

But there is one place where I occasionally miss my cable TV...live events. This is where the news media is ahead of the sports and entertainment media. When it comes to live news events, you can usually find a place that streams them online. Its hit or miss when it comes to live sports/entertainment events.

How does this impact politics you might ask? Its how we get things like this:
For most of the country, this October’s television airwaves are filled with two things — baseball and politics — and the two rarely mix.

But the mid-autumn climax of Major League Baseball could impact the Senate playing field in key states where teams are primed to make the playoffs. Televised sports make for a desirable market for political advertisers because viewers are less likely to record and fast-forward through commercials.
Note that this author hasn't yet made the connection to the reality that its not just about recording television or fast-forwarding through commercials. Its about the fact that live sporting events are one of the last things people watch on television. Hence, they are one of the last places it makes sense to invest in commercials. Major League Baseball playoffs have the added benefit of coming in September - a perfect lead-in time for November elections (sorry Super Bowl).

Some day these changes will begin to dawn on the world of political campaigns. Right now the biggest expenditure is still campaign commercials on television. But we're already seeing signs that this can be a waste of money. Its the videos/commercials that go viral on the internet that have actually had an impact (think Romney's 47% remarks) while all of the money Karl Rove spent in 2012 didn't accomplish much of anything.

Once that change happens, it will probably take a while for folks like the Koch brothers to figure out another way to use their money to influence elections. In the meantime, it will be a HUGE win for the rest of us!


  1. Cable TV ads still matter, especially in local elections. The ads that air on the local cable outlets are relatively inexpensive and go a long way toward building name recognition. This is particularly true for primaries. The air wars will continue to be fought to try to influence this older demographic...who vote...for some time. The internet might be influencing young people more, but it's not getting them to the polls. We still have a heavy lift to make that change.

    1. Things are changing. I'm noticing that its a good change.

    2. Wake me up when young people start voting in every election.

    3. The point is that old people are old. They won't always be with us. And young people won't always be young.


    4. The point is that these old people can do a boatload of damage (see: Change comma Climate or Court comma Supreme) in the meantime.

  2. I'm 70 but I quit watching cable/network news & talk shows a long time ago. I get all my news & opinion from the internet. However, I had to laugh regarding the 55+ crowd still watching their shows at the regular scheduled time because I have several shows (comedy, drama, whatever) that I like to watch in real time. When the commercials come on we hit the mute button & I use that time to do other things. That's why you can hear my husband yell several times an evening..."their back". We can't be the only ones hitting the mute button when the commercials come on. So I do enjoy the likes of the Koch Brothers & Karl Rove wasting their money on those TV ads.