Monday, April 3, 2017

NCAA Hates the East Coast?

The NCAA has an interesting championship game for tonight when Gonzaga faces off against North Carolina. One could say it should favor the Tar Heels, but with the way the Bulldogs have played, they might have a chance. This begs the question, however. Why does the NCAA hate the East Coast? As usual, the game begins at 9:20 PM for anyone that lives in that part of the United States.

I get that it's tradition and all, but this really needs to stop. If it were a Saturday night game, there wouldn't be too many issues. Monday night is pretty bad for anyone that has to go work that starts anywhere from six to nine in the morning, give or take. Not to mention any children that have to get to school the next day. They can't even watch the entire first half. I understand getting ratings, but wouldn't it make more sense to start the game at 8:15 PM or maybe 7:30 PM for that matter?

Major League Baseball received a lot of criticism for their World Series coverage in the 2000s. The big complaint was games starting after 8:30 at night. They have tried to address it, but problems still arise. Some from MLB, and other times, the teams who turn a three hour game into a three and a half, maybe four hour game. I do not see a daytime World Series working. At the very least, starting at 7:00 PM would certainly get people to at least watch most of a game. They should be lucky that last year's Series between the Cleveland Indians and Chicago Cubs actually got more than 40 million viewers for Game 7. That's lightning in a bottle that probably won't be replicated again.

I'd say the Super Bowl is the only championship game in all sports that starts at a decent time. The NFL knows exactly when to start and knows that the audience will be there, no matter what, until the last play of the game. For NCAA Football, it's not the best with their time choice, but not as bad as basketball. It should go for at least a 7:30 PM game. I'm not even sure that the NHL is worth criticizing since it isn't a ratings juggernaut. However, 8:00 PM is not a horrible timeslot to begin a game. Depending on penalties, shootouts, and other calls like off sides, it shouldn't take that long.

Much like the MLB, the NBA has endured a lot of criticism for its still current approach to scheduling Finals games. With exceptions of Sunday games, their games begin at 9:00 PM. That is the sweet spot if you were a TV show like Cheers or the original CSI.  Much like last year's World Series, it has been lightning in a bottle the last few years for the Finals. Seeing the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors duke it out for six, seven games has seen big numbers since the Michael Jordan years. NBC struggled after Jordan retired for a second time, and ABC had a hard time early on attracting audiences since getting the rights for the NBA for the 2002-03 season.

For them to get the rights in 2002, ABC struggled. Their first five years saw some pretty bad numbers in 2003 and 2007 for the Finals. Sandwiched in between were series that had notable teams and players, but saw some declines that were noticeable until the last few games of a Finals that went more than five games. It was still not as good as NBC ratings for the NBA. Starting with the 2008 Lakers and Celtics Finals, it has seen a steady growth in ratings due to the growth in a lot of big name players and teams that hadn't won or had the makings of a championship team.

Anyway you slice it, sports like the NBA can justify starting late at night because of the growth. The NCAA had its best ratings for the Final Four in over a decade and could rise following. It hurts anyone that lives on the eastern or even central time. But if it is a close game towards the end, the networks and leagues know everyone is going to watch. Those last few innings in the World Series last year was very intense and had the ultimate drama.

Is it really hating the East Coast? I don't know. I feel like it is, especially when lots of people have to get up to go to work or school. Until the numbers see a huge decrease (which seems very unlikely), networks and leagues can keep justifying starting late. Greed can sometimes not be a happy thing.

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