Patents in Sports: TV Propels Sports Into The Modern Era

TV Patent: German Patent No: 30105

In 2014 over 100 million people in the USA gathered around television sets to watch Super Bowl 48 between the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks. In 1939 a college baseball game between the Princeton Tigers and Columbia Lions was broadcasted by NBC to 400 television sets that were capable of receiving the signal. In the time between these two events the television became a household product and revolutionized the way sports are enjoyed.

The creation of the TV is most often credited to two people, Paul Nipkow from Germany, and john Baird form Scotland. Nikpow’s contributions were through his patented scanning disc in 1884, which is seen as helping take television development to the next stage. Baird would become the first person to transmit at the image of a live human face.

Nikpow and Baird were probably not thinking about the long-term affect the television would have on sports, they inadvertently helped make sports into the multi billion-dollar industry it is today. The commercial advertising in sports is the reason that leagues are able to obtain millions of dollars from broadcasting companies for the right to show the games.

Sports are especially important for TV in today’s world. With the ability to record television shows and skip through commercials being as easy as it is, sports becomes even more valuable to advertisers. A sporting event on TV like a hockey game is not something that is recorded and watched the next day or whenever it is most convenient like a recurring show would. Sports are watched live by most viewers because they can’t wait to watch the game a day later due to the likely event of them finding out the score and also the game won’t be relevant anymore. This means those viewers are watching all the commercials that take place over a three-hour hockey game.

Globe and Mail columnist Stephen Brunt called sports “PVR Proof” with a “loyal audience, tuning in for game after game, season after season.” That is why the broadcast deals that leagues can negotiate are so astronomical. They control a product that advertisers and broadcast companies believe cannot have the commercials skipped over, making that time worth millions or even billions.

An example of a Super Bowl ad, which can cost over $8 Million dollars for a 60 second spot.

Many televised sports have natural space for commercials as well, such as the twenty minutes between periods in hockey, or the 20 minutes at halftime of a basketball/football game. Football is notorious for their excessive commercials. An average NFL game takes 3 hours and 12 minutes. However, there is only 11 minutes of actual action taking place. In the average game there are 20 commercials breaks and a total of 100 ads all together. That time is what makes the NFL the wealthiest league in North America. Even in all the other sports there are still ways to advertise without even having to go to commercial. Advertisers can sponsor an aspect of the sporting event like the Toronto Raptors “MGD: Smooth Play of the Game”, which is shown towards the end of the game.

It is the commercial aspect of broadcasting sports on television that have many professional leagues considering putting advertisements on players’ jerseys/uniforms. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver called ads on jerseys “inevitable”. In terms of how much money could be generated through jersey ads you can look at the English Premier League in 2010, which generated over 178 million dollars from shirt sponsorship. In 2011 Adam Silver stated that he believes the NBA could generate over 100 million through jersey advertisements. It is that kind of revenue that makes it extremely enticing for owners of not just the NBA but for owners in all of the four major leagues.

An example of advertisements on English Premier League Jerseys

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Arguably, TV has had the most critical impact on all sports. Sports had been popular before and had been broadcast before as well through the radio but television gave people the feeling that they were there for the game. The funding it provided has helped grow sports that were commercially viable like hockey, basketball, baseball, and football. Had it not been for the television it is unlikely that sports would obtain the fanatic devotion it receives.

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