Your humble host has had the good fortune to view a great deal of auto races, and I fully understand the point of broadcasting is to get eyeballs and show them advertisements. The network gots to get paid. All about the benjamins. Insert your own favorite rap lyric here.
Still, while viewing through the Indianapolis 500 this year from the comfort of my couch, it just seemed like this year had become The Greatest Spectacle in Advertising. I mean, the ABC\ESPN presentation just felt like it was heavier on the ad side. And then as we moved on to the Double Dual in Detroit or whatever it’s called, that feeleing didn’t exactly go away. I mean, someone got crazy with the ad whiz.
But who cares about my feelings, right? Let’s try to quantify this for all of the dear readers who may have felt this same way. Because I’ve got a DVR and I’m not afraid to use it, and I went back and did some high-speed viewing noting all of the commercial breaks for the last three Indycar races.
I know – truly exciting post material, right?
So here are the categories:
Laps with full frontal advertising – these are the laps where traditional advertising is show. You know, the kind where it’s just the ad, the whole ad, and nothing but the ad. The kind where you quickly switch to the Verizon app to follow the race.
Laps with side-by-side advertising – these are the laps where ESPN tries to get the best of both worlds. On the right side of the screen is a series of commercials, but on the left is silent video coverage of the race. Of course the proportions for this coverage are so off that the image is almost useless. I mean, I’ve got a 55-inch HDTV in my living room, but the side-by-side image measures at all of 17 inches. At about 10 feet away this is pretty much the same viewing image as if I held up my phone in front of me.
*Indianapolis*: 200 laps (I know, you don’t need me to tell you that.)
Laps with full frontal advertising: 20 (10.0%)
Laps with side-by-side advertising: 57 (28.5%)
A combined 38.5% of the laps were slathered in commercial sauce. In reviewing the broadcast it is very obvious that ESPN had made the call to not go more than 10 laps without an ad break. During a green flag that’s a commercial break every 6 to 7 minutes. And there were 21 commercial break during the race. I’m pretty sure we’ll all know who the guests were on Jimmy Kimmel that week, forever.
*Detroit race 1*: 70 laps (but they’re longer laps)
Laps with full frontal advertising: 10 (17.3%)
Laps with side-by-side advertising: 22 (31.4%)
Not to be outdone by the Indy 500 broadcast, ESPN raised the ante in Detroit. Nearly HALF (48.7%!) of all laps featured some form of advertising. It was at some point during this race I wondered if I shouldn’t have just looked for a foreign feed of the race somewhere on the interwebs.
*Detroit race 2*: also 70 laps (what a coinkedink)
Laps with full frontal advertising: 7 (10.0%)
Laps with side-by-side advertising: 20 (28.6%)
Trimming back to nearly Indy 500 numbers exactly, ESPN continues to show a commitment to sponsorship. Ahem.
Auto racing is not like most sports here in America, because most sporting events like baseball, football, basketball, and hockey feature natural breaks. I get that ads need to be shown while the action continues, and this may all be a big nothingburger to many of you or the rest of the viewers. But at some point there’s a threshold of absurdity that gets crossed where we go from watching a race with commercials to a series of commercials that happen to include a race.