Pace of Play is Important
The attention span of today’s generation has become a big issue for all the North American sports leagues. From the NBA to the MLB to the NFL, everybody is worried about their game’s pace of play.
Millennials and their short attention spans are causing the major sports leagues to consider some significant changes, in large part due to a recent Microsoft study. This study found that the average human attention span is down to eight seconds from 12 when it was originally measured in 2000. The study’s researchers also claim that the human attention span is now less than that of a goldfish, which is nine seconds. Many attribute this drop to the proliferation of technologies, specifically smartphones and video games. However, neither the pace of play nor the decrease in attention span are the problem. It is the amount of information available that causes a problem.
Attention Span and Information
One of the best quotes I’ve ever read on this subject came from Nobel Laureate Herbert A. Simon in 1969:
“In an information-rich world, the wealth of information means a dearth of something else: a scarcity of whatever it is that information consumes. What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention and a need to allocate that attention efficiently among the overabundance of information sources that might consume it.”
Get in The RedZone
I think the biggest problem between sports and one’s attention span is the medium of exchange. Compared to the past, content today is much more superior in all forms—as well as the access provided—but the big difference is the medium of exchange.
The NFL and Verizon were the first to figure out that the best thing to do is cater to that attention span. The NFL Network began broadcasting their RedZone Channel in 2009, focusing on the scores that occur in football instead of the entire game. They wanted to show “every touchdown from every game” and built the channel around that idea. Their idea was such a smash hit that ESPN followed suit with their own version called, ESPN Goal Line, debuting one year later.
Optimize Your Content
There are several games, plays, and actions that we should employ the “RedZone” philosophy for in order for others to better enjoy the content such as people getting more experiential when it comes to venues or providing more experiences and technology in the stadiums, arenas, and playing fields. Fans that go to games want to be able to spend quality time with their family, friends, and associates. They want to have entertainment plus the game. I don’t believe the answer is trying to alter the pace of play. Instead, they should work together to create a RedZone for all of the leagues. We should provide “RedZone-style” content to create an environment that’s more interactive and suited towards the attention span of not only millennials but also those who are older and still want to see every home run and all the big defensive catches. This needs to be built in real-time, right there on our phone so we can build interest in the storylines and the players.
Changes in Pace of Play
The various leagues are taking their own paths when it comes to adapting their games to increase the pace of play. The MLB is considering implementing pitch clocks in their games, just like they have in the minor leagues. They intend to help their games move along by controlling the timing of their athletes. The NBA is taking a different route, where they recently voted to take four timeouts from their teams, leaving them with 14 instead of 18. They have also reduced the number of timeouts you can call at the end of the game so that the game moves along more smoothly. The world’s most valuable sports property, the NFL, is also getting in on the pace of play changes. The NFL is working to adjust their advertising schedule in order to prevent instances of airing commercials immediately after a kickoff. This happened 27% of the time last season, and Commissioner Goodell has talked about the necessity of reducing that number. The focus on the pace of play in sports has brought changes to the sports we love, for better or worse.
I Can’t Go For That
My opinion is pretty firm: do not slow down the pace of play. Cater the content in a medium of exchange that’s accessible and exciting for all. Create a platform similar to RedZone for fans to access the content they love. Don’t worry about the NBA’s time out changes or the pitch clock or even the extended ad breaks in the NFL. Just focus in on delivering the content real-time, accurately, efficiently, and excitingly. Making a RedZone channel for all the big sports leagues is the solution, not working on the game’s pace of play.
By: Dave Meltzer
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