Peterson: This college football season will be different from broadcast, advertising perspective, too
You know by now what to expect if planning to attend college football teams this fall. Wear a face mask. Don’t expect to tailgate six hours, if at all. Get used to concession food fitting into a package. Stadiums won't be at 100% capacity. Prepare for digital ticket-taking and staggered entry.
You’ve already read and heard most of that, though. So let’s now switch to your experience while watching games on TV, where ratings could be as high as ever.
It’s not so much what will be different with College Football 2020, but how networks keep those differences from being overly noticeable.
Game experiences, regardless if they are in the stadium or on the couch, won’t be the same. The goal, though, continues to be making viewers feel as if they’re in the stadium, right along with the lucky reduced crowd who could actually be there.
That mindset won’t change. Aside from those less-than-full stadiums and players spaced about the sideline instead of between the 25-yard lines (and referees maybe wearing masks), viewers aren’t likely to see many differences.
Behind the scenes, however, things will be different.
Remote announcers? Probably.
They’ll likely work from a studio in another state, and not in press boxes at the games they’re describing. That’s the biggest difference, from a TV perspective, but it’s something viewers — and broadcasters themselves — eventually will adjust to.
“The impact on fans, while minimal in my view, starts with how producers and announcers do their pregame preparation,” said Des Moines resident Ray Cole, who was a past ABC board member and liaison to ESPN. “They typically show up at college football game days ahead of time. Pregame meetings with coaches and players of both teams are common.”
Those meetings now will be via social media; informative one-on-ones are probably out this season.
“I doubt that (announcers) Chris Fowler or Sean McDonough will find college football coaches being as warm, candid and straightforward as they have in the past,” Cole said. “But it can be done successfully.
“Fran Fraschilla called basketball games during the 2016 Summer Olympics from an studio in Stamford, Connecticut. He pulled it off so well, that friends would call or text him to see how he was enjoying Rio.
“More recently, ESPN's Karl Ravech and Eduardo Perez called the network's coverage of Korean baseball from their homes.”
Additional advertising revenue streams?
Fewer fans means athletics departments are finding creative ways to help cushion the revenue losses. More company logos on fields? Company emblems on uniforms (I'm not sure apparel contracts would allow that)? Advertising logos superimposed digitally at various places of the stadium?
“Media outlets such as signage, TV, radio, digital and social channels will see higher demand, so finding ways to capitalize on that will be key,” said Chris Wujcik, vice-president of client consulting services at GMR Marketing in New Berlin, Wisconsin.
“Traditionally, college and pro football have intentionally avoided signage that has a large TV presence, while trying to maintain a clean landscape and keep the game as the focal point.
"Moving forward, with so many in-person limitations reducing the value of in-stadium elements, schools will need to focus on trying to shift assets to provide sponsors the impressions that they crave. (That’s) via broadcast, on what will likely be increased TV ratings, since people will not be able to attend events the same way.”
Unique advertising opportunities
Iowa State is among the schools that sell advertising on the blinders that shield signal-waving sideline personnel from observant opponent coaches in the press box. The multicolored ribbon circling the inside stadiums includes advertising, as do scoreboard video boards.
“Anything that is going to get a considerable amount of high profile, on-air exposure should be considered as a possibility,” Wujcik said.
An interesting backstage idea
“While gameday, in-person access may be limited, schools have an opportunity to create and promote fresh online and social media content,” Wujcik said. “If fans can’t get into the stadium, give them behind-the-scenes tours of the facility.
“Show how things operate on gamedays in areas they can't see in person, such as the locker rooms and coaches’ offices. Bring them into a week of team prep for the upcoming opponent, or into the personalities of the players and coaches.
“Now is the time to see how people have been living, and continuing to function in a socially distant world.”
And remember this ...
“The late, great Ronald Reagan was famous for calling Chicago Cubs baseball games remotely from the old WHO radio studio while ripping results off the wire,” Cole said. “Capturing the 'thrill of victory and agony of defeat' in compelling ways that touch viewers on an emotional level has come a long way.
"Viewers won't notice much of a difference, if any. At least that's the plan."
Iowa State columnist Randy Peterson has been writing for the Des Moines Register for parts of six decades. Reach him at email@example.com, 515-284-8132, and on Twitter at @RandyPete. No one covers the Cyclones like the Register. Subscribe today at DesMoinesRegister.com/Deal to make sure you never miss a moment.