It’s easy to see why TV networks want to stretch popular sports specials, from the NCAA Tournament selection show to the NHL and NBA’s draft lotteries, further than they should be stretched. When you’ve got a captive audience eagerly awaiting big news, it will always be tempting to keep them around as long as possible.
The downside, of course, is angry consumers.
On Tuesday, ESPN attempted to draw out its typical half-hour lottery show into a full hour, waiting until 45 minutes in to actually announce the order as part of an extensive show and a setup to their second-screen Eastern Conference Finals experience. There were breakdowns of lottery prospects, analyses of the ongoing playoffs, interviews with DeAndre Ayton and Marvin Bagley, a feature on Luca Doncic, a sit-down with Adam Silver and a great many commercials. Needless to say, no one was pleased.
the lottery broadcast being extended to an hour is the tv equivalent of using 2.5 spacing and making all periods 14 pt font lol
— jack (@jackhaveitall) May 15, 2018
Why does this entire draft lottery broadcast feel like there's an ESPN director next to the camera man making the "stretch out out" signal constantly?
— Kurt Helin (@basketballtalk) May 15, 2018
— SportsDayDFW (@SportsDayDFW) May 16, 2018
"… but before we reveal the 2018 draft order, Cassidy Hubbarth sits down with an actual lottery ticket to see how it feels about being a possible source of salvation for one lucky owner."
— Andy Glockner (@AndyGlockner) May 15, 2018
Did @espn just find out they were in charge of this thing at lunch?
— Ryan Yousefi (@Rizzmigizz) May 16, 2018
— SB Nation (@SBNation) May 15, 2018
The draft lottery makes for a goofy TV special even under the best of circumstances. It’s a whole lot of fuss just to determine the order in which teams will select 19-year-old players. But if the lottery is going to be on television, there’s no good reason to drag it out so long. A half hour can feel ample. An hour is exorbitant.
Alienating viewers by extending what should be a quick special has become a veritable trend in sports television. CBS ran a two-hour March Madness selection show in 2016 and a 90-minute program in 2017 before TBS took over and returned the show to two hours. And last month, the NHL caught for stretching its own draft lottery across two hours, announcing picks 4 through 15, then pausing for an entire period of playoff hockey, then finally announcing the top three picks.
Is the extra ad revenue that comes with longer shows worth pissing off hardcore fans? That’s for the leagues to decide. But as long as an announcement that could take 60 seconds is stretched into 60 minutes, people will complain. And they’ll have good reason to.