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NASCAR Shows Problem With Non-Stop Action In Sports

[1]On the highly popular (at least from a sports perspective) Mike & Mike in the Morning [2] radio show on ESPN Radio, co-host Mike Greenberg said that one of the things he loved about the World Cup is the non-stop action.

He pointed to the numerous breaks in action in American football and basketball, saying that we (America) need to find a way to bring non-stop action to our sports.

While this is a good idea in theory, perhaps Greeny should look to NASCAR – and its non-stop action – to see how his idea would play out in reality. I know… I know…  Comparing the World Cup to NASCAR is like comparing apples to restrictor plates, but I’m going to do it anyway.

Professional football, basketball, baseball, hockey, and tennis all feature TV timeouts. This allows networks to fulfill their advertising obligations without causing viewers to miss part of the action.

NASCAR doesn’t have mandatory TV timeouts, but they do cut to commercial when the field is under caution. But, if the caution flag doesn’t wave and the network is approaching a commercial break, they go to it, regardless of whether or not the field is under green.

This irks many fans because they feel like they’re missing the action. It also creates an illusion that there are more commercial breaks during NASCAR races than other televised sporting events or TV shows. But is that really the case?

The average 30-minute TV show has roughly eight minutes of commercials, which means that about 27% of the time allotted for the show is devoted to advertisements. According to Cheryl Walker of CawsnJaws.com [3], the race broadcast at Infineon Raceway was 220 minutes long. Fifty-nine minutes were devoted to commercials, which is about 27%. At Michigan International Speedway, there were 51 minutes of commercials during a 173 minute broadcast, which translates to about 30%. At Pocono Raceway, 70 minutes (27%) of the 258 minutes of the broadcast were devoted to commercials.

It is difficult to calculate an accurate average duration for a NFL game, but the general consensus seems to be roughly three hours. Let’s assume that the average game is three hours, real-time. NFL TV contracts mandate that each half of football has 10 commercial breaks. There are two more commercial breaks during halftime.

Much like that of the average duration of an NFL game, it’s difficult to come up with an average length of a commercial break, but the consensus is about three minutes. Assuming that is the case, that would mean there are 66 minutes of commercials per 180-minute NFL broadcast, or about 37%.

And while there are complaints about the number of commercials during NFL games, the complaints in NASCAR are louder despite the fact that the percentage of commercials during NASCAR is smaller than in the NFL. Why is this?

Well, in NASCAR, when there is a commercial break, you’re missing the action. In the NFL, there is a stoppage in play to keep you from missing the action. So, even if there are fewer breaks, you are, and feel like you are, missing more.  

So, if more American sports went to non-stop action, I think the complaints about commercials would get louder based on the complaints in NASCAR now.

Sure, non-stop action is more exciting for those at the events. But, for those watching on TV, it makes you more aware of the commercial breaks. And, I don’t think that would be a good thing.