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The Trouble With Football

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It’s been a frustration of television fans for a long time that sometimes sports, mainly football, runs over into their favorite programming, pushing the broadcast time later. In the days before DVRs, one tuned in when the show was airing, anyway, and aside from possibly having to stay up a bit later, it wasn’t that big a deal. But now that many record their shows, and don’t check in on them when they are on, this has become a problem.

One side of the issue is that DVR technology has just not caught up with the real world. It’s great to be able to record things, but often the schedule updates maybe once a day. Because the DVR does not track what is airing in real-time, it cannot make adjustments when the NFL teams take a bit longer than is scheduled.

I assume that the fix will ultimately come from DVRs being able to tell when this occurs. Until this happens, though, we are liable to miss the second half of The Good Wife, and I don’t see that as an acceptable concession.

On a side note, if CBS would join the rest of the broadcast networks in the modern era and make their shows easily available to stream online, the problem would be less urgent. But since they focus on the older viewership, their main audience, they don’t seem to be in any hurry to catch up with the times. And CBS has been the main offender for this problem lately.

One solution some DVR owners choose to pursue is to set their recording times a half hour or an hour longer. There are a couple of problems with that, though. Sunday night is arguably the biggest night of the week for TV, with cable channels such as HBO, AMC, and Showtime running their new installments mainly on this night, and ABC, CBS, FOX, and PBS competing, too. Most DVRs record two shows at once, and it takes away from other channels if you let one show record at double length. Also, unless you have one of the massive TiVos that can record hundreds of hours of HD programming, you might be concerned you don’t have the space to hold more. (Disclosure: I do have a massive TiVo that can record four shows at once, and I still run into both of these things.)

But I think the sports run-over runs deeper than this. We, as a society, have decided that sports is the most important of all of the television programming, especially NFL football. It gets more viewers than anything else, makes more money from ads, and thus, gets the top priority. The network isn’t about to cut off the end of the game for fear of angering the source of their income.

Why is football so popular? Isn’t it basically the same thing week after week? Guys run at each other and try to move a ball down the field. There won’t be any exciting plot twists, and the memorable moments come few and far between. What is the draw?

We see this in scripted television, too, with CSI and NCIS topping the ratings, even though they virtually always stick to a single formula, with stand-alone installments. Is the point here that people want mindless escapism that they don’t have to think about, and can tune in or not at their convenience, rather than scheduling their lives around it (for the most part)?

Why doesn’t the cream rise to the top? Why don’t the higher quality, more complex shows draw football ratings? This is a phenomena I will never understand, nor really have any desire to. It just disappoints and frustrates me that this is the reality we live in.

However, considering the two points this essay has made thus far, that DVRs aren’t ready to adjust, and that football will always be given first dibs on the airwaves, isn’t there something that can be done to solve the problem now?

The simple solution seems to be to schedule the football air times longer. After all, it’s not unusual for the game to run longer than schedule. It’s the norm, rather than the exception, for this to happen. Why not pad the time a little bit, and just let the post-game commentators ramble on a bit longer if the competition should end early? I really don’t understand why this hasn’t happened yet. It’s so obvious!

That being said, if you do know why this can’t be done, please weigh in on the comments below. Seriously.

This situation arises to my thoughts this week because of the Super Bowl. Yes, I’ll TiVo it, like many, but I plan on fast forwarding through the game and just watch the commercials. However, more important than ads is the brand new episode of Elementary that airs after. I definitely do not want to miss any of that clever show! If you haven’t seen it, check it out. It’s very good.

Sure, this is the Super Bowl, and perhaps this is the one time of year that run-over can be excusable; after all, this is the Big One. But what is the excuse the rest of the year?

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About JeromeWetzelTV

Jerome writes TV reviews for BlogCritics.org and Seat42F.com, as well as fiction. He is a frequent guest on two podcasts, Let's Talk TV with Barbara Barnett and The Good, the Bad, & the Geeky. All of his work can be found on his website, jeromewetzel.com