Impact Of Sports Television Essay, Research Paper
Impact of Sports Television
The mass media, particularly television, heavily influences the way in which sports are experienced in American society. For every person who is physically present at a major professional sporting event for example, as many as a thousand may be watching it at home. However, television is only the most recent medium of mass communication that has influenced sports. By the mid-19th century, Americans were already experiencing sporting events indirectly. At least since 1850, Americans could get accounts of some events, particularly boxing and horse racing, through the growing telegraph system, and they could get journalistic knowledge through magazines. Today, television not only give audiences the opportunity to view a sporting event, it also allow audiences to feel as if they are physically present through the use special effects with television cameras.
Similar to other tight relationships, however, television and sports has sometimes become unbalanced. During its early years, sports had the control and the media had to adapt to sport s concerns. Now, with the enormous growth of televised sport, the balance of power shifted. Television has played a major part in changing the conduct of sporting events. Whether people view such changes as interfering with sports or changing things to improve its entertainment value, is really the viewer s opinion. Many of the changes have been initiated not by television executives but by league officials who usually know how television ratings convert into larger profits (in future years).
From an historical perspective, the telegraphy made instant reporting possible, and things such as ball games, prizefights, horse races, and other events, enabled the expansion of sporting news throughout the latter half of the 19th century. Something even more important than its (the telegraphy s) role in facilitating the print media s coverage, was the telegraph s role as the first medium to make live coverage of sporting events possible for those fans not actually present. In the late 1850 s, people actually crowded around Western Union s offices for important prize fights. Shortly following that, electric telegraph wires were bringing the news to customers and bettors in places like poolrooms and saloons that were advanced enough to receive sets.
On the other hand, radio became the primary way of receiving sporting news before television added the dimension of sight. This was considered the biggest potential threat from a medium standpoint. If fans could both see and hear an event while staying in their own home, and if the television camera could put fans in the stands (or make them feel as if they were there) for free, then why would fans remain interested in attending the events in person? With this in mind, the first sporting event that was televised in the United States was an Ivy League baseball game in which Princeton played Columbia for fourth place. Bill Stern was the announcer and he informed his viewing audience on an experimental station in New York City, where there was less than four hundred television sets in existence. There was only one camera covering the game and it was fixed. When the ball left the infield, it also left the television screen, which forced the audience to use its imagination until the ball reached the infield again.
American sports are becoming part of the global entertainment industry as NFL (Nation Football League) football is gaining popularity in Europe and Latin America and baseball is being marketed in Asia and Latin America. Also, basketball has been long established in Europe. Foreign audiences for the World Series and Super Bowl are already more than double the size of the American audience, inspiring broadcasters to see the world market as growing even as U.S. ratings sag (Flanigan, 1989). Like advertisers, network executives argue that sports telecasting is prestigious and satisfies the demands and desires of the affiliated stations. As a last resort, network executives can view the sporting event as “news” and justify paying a lot of money for broadcast rights, being that they are providing a public service.
Positioning itself as a rougher, sassier, and more exciting style of football, the XFL will be starting in February of the year 2001. NBC and the World Wrestling Federation Entertainment Inc. are jointly developing the made-for-television football league. The future existence of the XFL is an excellent example of networks pinching in to create sporting entertainment. Feeding off of the NFL, the soon existing XFL will add and take away rules that currently apply in the NFL such as no fair catches on punt returns. When a player is backfield ready to receive and return a punt, he cannot wave his hand in the air for referee-protection after catching the punt. The ball will be in play until someone takes possession and gets tackled. This is one example of how the XFL will attempt to bring a new excitement to the game. If a player cannot fair catch a punt, the chances of him taking a Knock-Out shot (or getting hit really hard) become greater, which is what viewing audiences at home want to see (particularly men).
The XFL has told advertisers it expects to average a 5.5 household rating for NBC Saturday-night games, with about 2.7 million men 18-49 tuning in (Broadcasting Cable).
Agency sources said the XFL was shopping sponsorships in the range of $2 million and up. Those sources estimate that a single 30-second spot in NBC s Saturday night game might cost between $17,000 and $20,000, if the games reach the ratings targets (Broadcasting Cable).
On the other hand, golf telecasts have made positive strides with ratings, largely because of Tiger Wood s performance over the past few years. For example, it has been said that Tiger Woods boosted ratings almost forty percent for the British Open tournament. With this in mind, Tiger Woods is attracting a whole new generation of golf fans. In doing so, he has not only helped increase ratings for televised golf, but he has also increased ad dollars that networks can appreciate. People who never would have thought they d watch golf, are now influenced by what the game has to offer. Typically, golf has been known to attract an older male audience, but demographics are expanding to include more females and younger viewers. Tiger Wood s popularity in golf causes people to sample the sport on television, and some of those people continue to watch regardless of whether or not Tiger is performing.
As phenomenal as the jump from radio to television has been, the move from network television to expanding cable systems, including numerous pay-per-view channels, may be just as important to the future of the sporting experience for the average person.
Sports have played a big part in bringing dramatic attention to new forms of mass media, particularly television. With this in mind, those forms have brought new sporting experiences to the public. The tight relationship of sport and television has allowed each of the two to flourish.