Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

23 Aug 2005

CFL Ratings Improve Without Announcers

The Toronto Argonauts played the Edmonton Eskimos last weekend, but with 5,000 CBC employees on strike, management had to air the game sans camera technicians, directors and announcers ... and the ratings went up. So let me get this straight, fans actually enjoy watching football games without a lot of inane banter, exploding graphics, and mind-numbing sideline reports, even if that means all they can hear is the crowd noise and the PA announcer? Hmmm.

Posted by: P. Ryan Wilson on 23 Aug 2005

48 comments, Last at 07 Sep 2005, 4:32am by Gina


by Whatever0 (not verified) :: Tue, 08/23/2005 - 9:45pm

All I want is a simple replay after every play, and multiple slow-mo replays on plays that are challenges. That's it.
And, I guess, injury updates. But that's a minor concern.

So, yeah. Keep the camera technicians, dump the directors and announcers.

by MCS (not verified) :: Tue, 08/23/2005 - 10:31pm

Is anyone in American sports paying attention?

by kleph (not verified) :: Tue, 08/23/2005 - 10:45pm

announcerless games are sooooo 80's.

by Bulldozer36 (not verified) :: Wed, 08/24/2005 - 12:16am

I do like the play-by-play announcers but I get so frustrated, irritated, agitated, dumbfounded, etc at most of the color commentators. Why is Madden still on tv? "Er, I circled this guy here because he touched the ball last play and that just earned him a 83 Ball Carry stat on my next game instead of 81, er."

by pcs (not verified) :: Wed, 08/24/2005 - 12:38am

Madden's top insight last night: "What Bill Parcells wants to see this offense do is take the ball, move down the field and score touchdowns."
$5 million a year for this!

by Bulldozer36 (not verified) :: Wed, 08/24/2005 - 12:47am

Thats why I love the guy. Who know offenses were meant to score touchdowns? I sure didnt! But then again, I dont have my own video game and talk like a blubbering drunk.

by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 08/24/2005 - 1:31am

Oh, come on. Madden last night was actually in really good form - I was kinda surprised, but I think that's because it's early in the season. He was pointing out quite a bit of line technique early in the game that you normally wouldn't hear about.

Kinda why I'm going to miss Madden and Michaels, though. Michaels doesn't have as many verbal slips like Madden, and in the past few years Michaels has been correcting Madden's misstatements.

by MarkB (not verified) :: Wed, 08/24/2005 - 2:19am

In the last Patriots game, the three announcers stopped even faking play-by-play. They were talking about league news through the plays, stopping every two plays to mention what yard line the ball was on.

Better to turn the sound down and put on some good tunes.

by Harris L (not verified) :: Wed, 08/24/2005 - 4:29am

It would be great if they stick with this and follow the genius plan put forth in #1.

by Theo (not verified) :: Wed, 08/24/2005 - 5:24am

When I watch tape I always put the volume down.
Dont want to miss the replays, although the off tackle TD is shown about 43 times and the TE shoufle is shown 1 time.

by Jersey (not verified) :: Wed, 08/24/2005 - 8:48am

MAdden was in terrible form. He talked about Larry Allen bench pressing 700 lbs like it was the second coming of christ. He even put up a still frame of a bench with a bar on it and 700lbs with of weight, circling it and talking about it extensively. Honestly. I must have heard how great laryr allen is at benching 700lbs more times than I heard "first down." I couldntw ait for him to get off the field.

by fyo (not verified) :: Wed, 08/24/2005 - 9:14am

I'm just waiting for the "digital revolution" to kick in and allow us to (individually) choose what sound we want.

Since I gave up holding my breath on that, I've been trying to figure out a reasonable way to sync the sound between the tv and fieldpass radio commentary (which I often find vastly superior to the tv commentators).

There's still the issue of maddening doodles all over the place, of course (pun intended).

by MadPenguin (not verified) :: Wed, 08/24/2005 - 9:42am

re #12: I agree. I think it would be good if I could select-o-sound, a) current tv announcers, b) visiting team radio coverage, c) home team radio coverage. I'm becoming more and more tired of the color commentary (see last years espn sunday night crew). If you'd just give me the play-by-play with updates on injuries and statistics i'd be happy, i do not need to know things like "to win, they have to keep moving the ball downfield" or "did you know he is dating so-and-so from so-and-so" or "this is an example of a team failing to execute"

but thats just me.. oh and while i'm griping could we dispel with all of the commercials? Must we break after every kick off and before every kick off and every other moment..

by Catholic Samurai (not verified) :: Wed, 08/24/2005 - 9:43am

When the season is over, does Madden have a regular life or does he just sit in a room hooked up to a computer like Robocop, waiting for the next year's training camps?

by Craig B (not verified) :: Wed, 08/24/2005 - 9:44am

Given the state of the announcers up here in the CFL, the strike is more than a blessing. One guy in particular - a sideline reporter who recently graduated to the booth - bites on the play action EVERY time. He calls "run" or "handoff" every time the offense play-fakes. It's hilarious and uncanny...

by carl s (not verified) :: Wed, 08/24/2005 - 10:37am

I think that there are people out there who could do a great job, but they never find them and give them jobs. Don't get me started on Joe Buck and Tim McCarver, but I have seen some pretty good commentary on baseball when they brought in some current players, like Al Leiter one year during the playoffs. Get T.O. in the booth!

by MDS (not verified) :: Wed, 08/24/2005 - 11:35am

"I think it would be good if I could select-o-sound, a) current tv announcers, b) visiting team radio coverage, c) home team radio coverage."

I hope the day will come where we can go far beyond that. I think it might be possible some day that every fan who wants to can hook up a microphone to his computer and anyone else can listen live via the Internet. I'm sure there are plenty of knowledgeable fans out there who would do a better job than the guys who currently do it for a living.

by fyo (not verified) :: Wed, 08/24/2005 - 12:12pm

> I think it might be possible some day that every fan who wants to can hook up a microphone to his computer and anyone else can listen live via the Internet.

Disregarding the fact that knowing what to say and actually saying it in a live broadcast are two very different things, the problem with this is the same as with using radio commentary: syncing the sound to the video. There's nothing more annoying than when a commentator calls INTERCEPTION a second before the ball is actually intercepted. It's only slightly less annoying to have commentators being a second or so behind.

It's easy enough to just make delay loop for the internet audio, but the problem is usually the reverse, with the sound lagging the video. Short of a TIVO (which I don't have), there doesn't seem to be a simple solution. And even then it isn't automatic. You'd still need to manually adjust the video delay to match the audio - plus the ability to use the TIVO for its intended purpose is basically lost.

by Dan Babbitt (not verified) :: Wed, 08/24/2005 - 12:12pm

I was on a cruise during the latter part of the NBA finals and we watched the games on the NBA international feed. There were no announcers and no commericals. It was the best tv sports viewing experience ever. During commercials they would show the crowd or the teams or an NBA produced highlights package from the game - still w/o commentary.

by Sid (not verified) :: Wed, 08/24/2005 - 12:27pm

That's why I don't understand why ESPN was paying actual money to Theismann, Maguire, and Patrick to clown around and make a mockery of the broadcast. Many of the real fans muted those idiots anyway. Silence is preferable to listening to 3 people with a combined IQ of about 150 (j/k about the IQ).

by Sid (not verified) :: Wed, 08/24/2005 - 12:30pm

All I want is a simple replay after every play, and multiple slow-mo replays on plays that are challenges. That’s it.
And, I guess, injury updates. But that’s a minor concern.

So, yeah. Keep the camera technicians, dump the directors and announcers.

I agree entirely. Especially in cases where networks are not inclined to hire decent announcers (like ESPN's now lost SNF).

RE: 8

Sounds good to me.

by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 08/24/2005 - 1:12pm

#11: Maybe Madden got worse as the night went on. Got me. I tend to filter out the non-football related stuff, anyway.

(j/k about the IQ).

Whew! I thought you were giving them way too much credit.

by krugerindustrialsmoothing (not verified) :: Wed, 08/24/2005 - 4:02pm

re: #12 I tell ya what I'd like to see (thanks for asking)

with the more common use of widescreen TV's etc., I'd really like to see football games from the endzone or backfield view, like the madden video games. I'd love to be able to put into use some of the minicamp tidbits I've picked up from this site. The only other option I would need is a mute button.

by Aaron Boden (not verified) :: Wed, 08/24/2005 - 4:27pm

I watched that game. It was kind of surreal, but you did get to hear the actual game noise quite a bit. They may not have had the camera techs, but the camera work was quite good, and the edmonton P.A. announcer did better work that a lot of analysts do. All in all, thumbs up from me.

by Vern (not verified) :: Wed, 08/24/2005 - 4:44pm

I've been toying with an idea for a "TV sidekick" internet program for NFL fans (think of it as an add-in to the NFL's gameday system). It would show relevant "chance of success" and "degree of success" stats during games based on the current game situation. I don't think the NFL publishes an API so it's sort of a pipe dream at this point that I'll actually try to code the thing. Maybe a simpler system where you can type in the situation and get the stats manually.

Here's the kind of thing it would show for "chance of success":

For any given down and distance a running set of stats:
- average yards in that situation (general, if run selected, if pass selected)
- percentages that a drive in this position will end up in: a TD, a FG, punt, etc.
- both of the above for averages of just the two teams playing

For "degree of success" stats it would show things post play and post drive like:
- player stats vs. average (live DVOA per play!). E.g. if a player catches a 4 yard pass but for a play that averages 7 yards, then show the -3 yard below average for the play.
- drive success vs. average E.g. if a team scores a FG in a drive that started from their own 45 yard line with two minutes left in the half, was that really an above or a below average achievement? (comparted to league and team average).

by Sophandros (not verified) :: Wed, 08/24/2005 - 4:50pm

That’s why I don’t understand why ESPN was paying actual money to Theismann, Maguire, and Patrick to clown around and make a mockery of the broadcast.

Well, they can't pay their bills with Monopoly money...

Then again, maybe they should be paid in Monopoly money, because that's about what they're worth.

by Evilnick (not verified) :: Wed, 08/24/2005 - 5:24pm

Here in Quebec we had a similar scenario in 2002. The French CBC journalists were on strike and we had two whole rounds of Canadiens playoffs hockey without commentary. Just crowd noise. Everyone loved it.

Just a thought: I know you can sometimes switch from English to Spanish with the SAP function maybe we could get the option to turn off the commentary with that same system

by El Angelo (not verified) :: Wed, 08/24/2005 - 7:18pm

C'mon, lay off Madden, everyone. If it weren't for him, we wouldn't have exchanges like this:

Madden: "When he runs, he moves faster!"
Summerall: "Most people do, John."

by zip (not verified) :: Wed, 08/24/2005 - 7:28pm

Re #17, 18:

1) That's the best idea I've ever heard.

2) The biggest problem, as #18 mentioned, is that streaming audio has to be buffered at the client and thus gets delayed.

I don't think this would hurt football discussion as much as play-by-play. Having the guy yell "interception!!" too early or late sucks, but if they're talking more about the situation at hand, (i.e. "ron dayne has a -10 dvoa so I don't know what the broncos were thinking giving him the ball on 3rd and 6") it would be less of an issue.

3) If the FO staff were to broadcast themselves watching and discussing a game, probably every person who reads to this site and has a computer near a TV would listen to it if they had that game on.

4) Current techonology makes this kind of thing totally feasible: Shoutcast.

5) I like internet radio, and I like football outsiders. Combining these things would either make me explode, or very happy.

by Björn (not verified) :: Wed, 08/24/2005 - 7:35pm

As a starving Habs fan, those broadcasts mentioned by 27 were amazing.

Also, living in Edmonton, I can tell you that the media reaction to the broadcast in question was extremely unfavourable. There was such a backlash that the CFL issued a statement asking the CBC to get their issues sorted out. I don't remember the exact wording, but there was a comment along the lines of that kind of broadcast being very bad for the league. Sometimes, I think, we forget that there are people out there who don't know as much as us about the game. To those people, "they want to score some points on this drive" or "if he didn't get tackled, that would have been a touchdown" or "the patriots should kill the clock and play for overtime" might actually help.

by deadteddy8 (not verified) :: Wed, 08/24/2005 - 7:36pm

I think the biggest problem with fans doing their own play by play off TV or from the upper deck would be a copyright issue. Does this sound familiar? "All accounts of this game are the sole property of the NFL..." As has been stated, the technology is available.

by bravehoptoad (not verified) :: Wed, 08/24/2005 - 7:50pm

I would sacrifice certain parts of my anatomy if network TV would just pull their camera far back enough that I could see what was happening in the secondary. I'd be overjoyed if they pulled back enough to see what the linebackers were doing. This current style, close-up focus on the QB taking seven steps back while the line of scrimmage slips off the screen to one side, it cripples the game.

by Vince (not verified) :: Wed, 08/24/2005 - 8:38pm

Re: #32: Watching a game at my brother-in-law's house last year, in Hi-Def, I could see WAY more downfield stuff. Anything over 10 yards deep was lost, but I could still see slants, hooks, and short ins and outs. It was PHENOMENAL.

by fyo (not verified) :: Wed, 08/24/2005 - 8:57pm

#31: I think the biggest problem with fans doing their own play by play off TV or from the upper deck would be a copyright issue. Does this sound familiar? “All accounts of this game are the sole property of the NFL…�

Facts cannot be copyrighted (with some exceptions in the field of databases). As long as the fans don't include any sound or video from the actual broadcast (or game), there should be absolutely no problem. From a copyright standpoint, it would be the same thing as a newspaper article commenting on specific plays the following day. IANAL.

> As has been stated, the technology is available.

Available *somewhere*, yes. Widely available, no.

Sync'ing a network or radio feed to the video is pretty much impossible without the use of something like a TIVO. You really need to delay the video feed.

The second issue is that you lose the sounds from the game itself, not just the commentators. What you really want is to just replace the commentators. Now, international feeds are available both with and without US commentators, so it might be possible to access this in some manner, but Sunday Ticket isn't exactly offering it.

The only thing we could realisticly hope for in the near future is the ability to switch between commentators, although even this is not trivial, due to issues like booth close-ups, sideline interviews/commentary and Madden's scribbles all over the screen. Of course, the international feeds (providing they choose not to use the US commentary) already suffer from this, so it's clearly doable. It might be nice to be able to chose between two distinct styles of commentary.

by Yap (not verified) :: Wed, 08/24/2005 - 9:55pm

What would be the effect on the NFL's contract with networks? I mean, how much money are networks going to want back if they cannot have every viewer hear the announcer saying that right after the game they can catch an All-New episode of "Mis-matched Couple #137" followed by "Dull Reality Series #32". Having the chyron (is that what those things are called that pop up on screen?) appear on-screen to announce what's on next is one thing, but having Joe Buck telling me is another.

by Trogdor (not verified) :: Wed, 08/24/2005 - 10:41pm

I was always a big fan of "Ethnic Mismathc Comedy #644" and the short-lived "Admiral Baby" myself. And I was a big fan of the pilot for "Police Cops", but didn't like the series so much.

by deadteddy8 (not verified) :: Wed, 08/24/2005 - 11:29pm

#34 -- IANAL either, so I'm not sure where to look for the specific rules on this, but if that logic holds, then why must a radio station have a contract to broadcast NFL games? Wouldn't stations do just as I've suggested, buy a pair of upper deck tickets on the fifty, and have a couple people do the game through a laptop back to the studio?

by Nick (not verified) :: Thu, 08/25/2005 - 12:38am

Re #32.

For anyone who's ever paid an arm and a leg for 50 yard line seats - ha. The best seat in the house is behind the endzone.

Anyone who's ever seen the coaches film, shot from behind the endzone, knows this is the only way to watch, digest and understand the game. Shouldn't we want to see what the coaches see? Anybody with me? Don't suppose a letter writing campaign to our friends at ABC or ESPN would help!

by Sid (not verified) :: Thu, 08/25/2005 - 3:04am

RE: 32

That's long been a pet peeve of many on this site. Networks enjoy showing a lot of empty space, I suppose. Instead of getting to see where the secondary is positioned, we get to see 7 yards or so of empty space behind the QB. Technology is weakened by the fools that control it.

by Theo (not verified) :: Thu, 08/25/2005 - 7:59am

@ Nick:
but WHEN you show a game from the sidelines, show the secondary. All I see now is Linemen, QB, backfield and 10 yards behind the backfield (as if anything happens there).

by jebmak (not verified) :: Thu, 08/25/2005 - 12:35pm

Re: #35 Catch an All-New episode of “Mis-matched Couple #137″ followed by “Dull Reality Series #32″

All of this on our network's, "Who gives a rat's ass" Thursday.


by dlm (not verified) :: Thu, 08/25/2005 - 1:04pm

NBC telecast a regular season Jet-Dolphins game on Dec. 20, 1980 with no announcers. Personally, I found it just a little disorienting. If nothing else, the announcers can help to identify players making plays. They don't always get it right, but unless you memorize the numbers of all the players in the NFL, a little help doesn't hurt.

Apparently, NFL Network did something similar with the Aug. 15, 2004 pre-season game between Denver and Buffalo - except players and coaches were wired for sound to provide audio for the game.

Not sure how the ratings were affected in either case.

(Story linked on name)

by Larry (not verified) :: Thu, 08/25/2005 - 1:16pm

#25: I suggested something similar in a previous thread, though I certainly did not volunteer to code it up. I think this would be absolutely great to have pop up on a computer sitting next to my TV. Not sure if I'd pay extra for it, though. Probably not. Putting it on the TV would probably be too much clutter.

As for muting the announcers, without them able to tell you the promos, there'll be even more promo graphics splattered on the telecast covering up the game, and that would not be a good thing. I think Tivo is already driving the networks towards this as they realize ads are getting smaller exposure. The ability to select out the audio track would further push this migration of ads to visual during the programming.

by Dan Babbitt (not verified) :: Thu, 08/25/2005 - 1:41pm

Ever since Madden the video game debuted I've been trying to convince people that the NFL needs to show us the games from the endzone angle. Same with the NBA.

I want to see what the offense and defense are really doing - not a lame side angle version of it.

by RichC (not verified) :: Thu, 08/25/2005 - 2:04pm

Re: #44
Especially with the existence of the robot "skycam" thing. I'd kill to be able to get an overhead view as the primary live-action view for a game (as long as it was sufficiently zoomed out).

by Stiller Fan in Cle (not verified) :: Thu, 08/25/2005 - 3:46pm

I think a big problem with the 'Madden' cam is that you'd have to run more cables overtop the field, and then have a camera there. This creates 2 problems, at least in my mind:

1. It might obstruct and distract the views of fans at the game

2. I think it would be a technical nightmare to rig

Besides that, the change might tick off a bunch of people just because it's something different...

by yep (not verified) :: Fri, 08/26/2005 - 12:56am

re: #18

Given the option of Mark Lee and Chris Walby, or silence, I'll take silence, every time.

For those of you who get the CBC Team 1040 in Vancouver is going to adjust their delay so that the audio matches CBC's video for this Saturday's game in Regina. And yes, they stream online at team1040.ca

For the three of you who watch the games wearing tinfoil hats to get your America One affiliate (or the regional Comcast networks, of FSN New York, or Altitude), the tape delays will have American announcers doing the announcing, dubbed in after the fact. The CBC broadcast, however will have no announcers if the strike is not settled.

by Gina (not verified) :: Wed, 09/07/2005 - 4:32am

What does everyone think of Leif Pettersen's announcing? I think he's good.