We’ve seen lots of moves to lower or alter sports broadcasts’ commercial loads in recent years, whether that’s with fewer but longer breaks, single-advertiser “superpods,” sponsored commercial-free segments, six-second ads and more. But the boldest move may be doing away with commercials altogether. Fox Sports did that for an all-access no-commercial women’s basketball broadcast of St. John’s – Seton Hall on FS2 last December, and now they’re repeating that experience for another Big East women’s game on FS2 and a Big East men’s game on FS1.
Here are more details from their release:
Following last season’s widely acclaimed all-access women’s basketball game between St. John’s and Seton Hall, FOX Sports furthers its commitment to innovation with two commercial-free, mic’d up BIG EAST contests, including a men’s college basketball telecast for the first time ever.
During the Providence at DePaul men’s basketball game Friday, Jan. 12, on FS1 (8:30 PM ET) and the Creighton at Seton Hall women’s basketball contest Tuesday, Jan. 2, on FS2 (7:00 PM ET), head coaches wear live microphones, giving viewers the chance to hear directly from the sidelines, huddles and locker rooms from tip-off through the final whistle and everything in between. Both matchups are presented commercial-free, allowing FOX Sports cameras and microphones to capture moments not normally available to a television audience.
“FOX Sports is excited to expand upon our commitment to broadcast innovation with our partners at the BIG EAST Conference,” said FOX Sports President, Production & Executive Producer John Entz. “We’d like to thank the four participating coaches, as well as BIG EAST Commissioner Val Ackerman, for the support they’ve given us and the willingness to collaborate they’ve shown us from Day 1 of our partnership. We can’t wait to build upon last season’s success and showcase these four programs in an incredibly unique way.”
It’s interesting to see Fox doing this again, and to see them doing so for a men’s game on FS1 as well as another women’s game on FS2. And there are going to be some cool touches here, including Fox Sports Go feeds with a camera and audio dedicated to each coach. Fox will only go to break at the start and end of halftime in each game, and they’ll have crews in place for the locker-room speeches. So this will definitely be a bit different from your standard college basketball broadcast.
It makes a lot of sense for Fox to play around with ideas like this, especially on the less-watched and carried FS2 channel. Doing it for a FS1 game is a bit of a bolder step, but this also isn’t the highest-profile game in the world. And things clearly went well enough last year that they figured it was worth their while to try again. Commercial-free broadcasts seem like a tough sell overall from a bottom-line perspective, especially for a prominent game, but perhaps a presenting sponsor will ante up enough to make it worthwhile for a network.
For some smaller games with less audience in particular, this could perhaps be a decent alternative to the traditional ad model. Less commercials and extra access could be a selling point to get more viewers to tune in, too. At any rate, it’s interesting to see Fox trying this again, and to see them doing so for men’s basketball. We’ll see how it goes for them.