You got me, I really just wanted to use the phrase “pure poppycock” and have a pic from Dodgeball.
But really, Pace of Play is a load of shit. In no way will shaving a few minutes off the game help you attract more fans. There are a number of problems with this theory but the biggest is that the NFL’s pace of play is worse and it gets monster ratings. The Wall Street Journal did some research on the amount of action and the length of games. If you’re too cheap to subscribe, like me, the summary can be found here. The research found that MLB games were just under 3 hours and had about 18 minutes of actual action. Football on the other hand, has game lengths of about 3 hrs and 10 minutes and anywhere between 11-17 minutes of action. So why is this not a problem for football and what can baseball do?
One of the great innovations of the NFL in recent years has been the RedZone channel. Yes, there is under 20 minutes of action in an NFL game, but if you add that up across 8 games at once, there is almost non-stop action. So without a rule change, you have introduced a way to have more action in your telecast. Contractually, this may be tough for baseball to pull off, but imagine if they could? In addition to having more action in a single night of baseball, you’d get all the hometown calls, which are another great part of baseball. Now MLB Network already does this a bit, and admittedly it is not as popular as RedZone and the next item might be why.
Fantasy Baseball is simply not as enjoyable as Fantasy Football. It’s not that the sport is somehow inferior, it’s that it does not work for the casual fan. Having to make daily updates and deal with more positions, more categories, and less players good across a number of them makes it more difficult to do. This cuts out your casual fans and lessens the viewership for games that don’t include their favorite team. You’ll see a lot of this as the Sox become terrible this year. So what can be done? Gambling. Rob Manfred has already softened MLB’s stance on this and it’s a smart move. The best way to bring in casual fans is to allow them to bet on games. Now to shift gears completely.
As kids play less and less Little League, baseball is going to have trouble teaching the rules of baseball to kids. People who say “baseball is so boring” tend to not understand the rules or the strategy of the game. Football, has this same issue, which gives baseball an opportunity to jump in and attract young viewers. One great way to do it, is to have interactive apps for baseball. Increasing spending in this arena could attract kids to watch more games and to have something interesting to do between pitches, assuming you don’t speed up the pace of play.