Live sporting events represent one of the last bastions of television programming that is DVR-proof. Sitting down to watch a game, any game, you will be on the receiving end of a barrage of advertisements. Orioles games are no exception. Every in-game graphic and every commercial break is a new revenue opportunity for MASN, and in turn, the Orioles.
Tuesday night's 6-3 victory over the Indians was completed in a relatively brisk 2:24. From the time the telecast kicked off at 7:00 until the last out of the game was recorded, there were 19 commercial breaks: a break prior to the first pitch; breaks after the top and bottom of eight full innings played; and two mid-inning pitching changes. During those breaks, there were a total of 56 commercials for 29 different companies.
The quick pace of the game may have limited the opportunities for in-game sponsorship mentions, but there was still enough time to squeeze in 27 plugs for products for 19 different companies. These kicked off with the Orioles lineup presented by Southwest Airlines and continued all the way through to the end of the broadcast, when we were told the current results of the AT&T Player of the Game poll.
A 7:07 first pitch plus 2:24 time of game means there were 151 minutes of MASN from the start of the telecast to the end of the game. There were 83 advertisements in that time. Most companies that had commercials also had sponsored segments, and vice versa: in all, there were 34 different companies who paid for some kind of placement during tonight's game.
That there is demand for prominent placement during Orioles telecasts should not be a surprise. The Baltimore Sun's television critic, David Zurawik, wrote in Sunday's paper that Orioles telecasts on MASN were the top-rated prime-time program for April and May among young adults in the Baltimore area. More people in "the demo" (adults 18-49) were watching Orioles games than The Voice.
This is the fifth-highest rated market in Major League Baseball this season, and the ratings represent an 86% growth over ratings for MASN telecasts during the 2011 season, according to Zurawik. That's more money in the bank for MASN, because there are only so many commercial slots for a baseball game, and they can charge more if there is more demand for advertisers to reach the eyes of those watching Orioles games.
What MASN charges for ads is an interesting article on its own, though someone who actually knows would have to write it. That is not me. This is just about what you and I, the fans, will have trying to attract our attention.
Note that this is just one night's snapshot of advertising. Different nights may bring different numbers of commercials for different things, but there is likely no escape from the incredibly awkward C.J. Wilson and Josh Hamilton commercials for Head and Shoulders.
Do you want to buy a car? MASN's advertisers think you do, or that you can be convinced to buy one with the right ad. Car companies represented the biggest segment of commercials, with ten different companies represented in 16 commercials. Did you feel like you saw a lot of Nissan? That's because you did: they aired the exact same commercial four times throughout the game. Other car companies with multiple slots had multiple commercials: Volkswagen aired three, with Chevy and Jeep airing two apiece.
Two other companies also had four commercial slots, with PNC Bank (the only bank to advertise Tuesday night) and Southwest (the only airline) also airing the same commercial four times each.
During lean years for the Orioles, it felt like every commercial break had at least one in-house MASN spot. Each of these is an ad spot not sold. Tonight, there were only three such spots. The O's also had three ads during the game. They probably pay for those, unless they don't.
Southwest was the most frequently-mentioned during the actual telecast. In addition to their sponsoring of the O's lineup, two other random segments of the broadcast were "presented by" Southwest. The Orioles also got three plugs on their own broadcast: three separate pleas to take advantage of online promotions, including buy one, get one free for the rest of this series, and the Vote Orange All-Star promotion.
Other companies with multiple in-game sponsorships include the Maryland Lottery, with its Hit It Big contestant of the game; Lowe's, which presents the scouting reports for the starting pitchers; Jeep, which sponsors all the horrible graphs and charts (seriously, anyone who works at MASN or anyone who knows anyone who works at MASN, please express to someone who matters just how awful the bar graphs are); and AT&T, with the Player of the Game text poll.
One thing that was regrettably missing from Tuesday's broadcast, and as far as I have noticed, all of the games this year, is an advertisement for a beer or liquor where Gary Thorne can add his personal flourish to the copy: "Drink responsibly."
In fact, while Tuesday's game was going on, there were not any commercials or spoken promotions for any alcoholic beverages at all, though one did air for Captain Morgan in the time between the final out and the beginning of O's Xtra post-game.
Chances are that, while not all of the advertisements during an Orioles game will be targeted at you, at least some are. They wouldn't keep spending money if, in the aggregate, advertising was not effective. Enough people must use Luna Floors that we will hear that jingle (and that of Empire, which did not get a slot during Tuesday's game) for the rest of our time on this mortal coil.
Maybe you would like a cheap haircut. Maybe you would like a deal on pizza after the Orioles win and score five or more runs. Maybe you can't decide where to eat some nights. An ad you saw or heard during an Orioles game might pop into your head, and then, there you go.
And maybe, just maybe, some day, after you win the Mega Millions jackpot that you only decided to purchase because watching an Orioles game reminded you to buy a lottery ticket, you can stick all that money in a PNC Bank account. Then you can use that fortune to buy a couple of BMWs from your Baltimore BMW dealer, and Volkswagons for your kids, buy a big mansion, and load it up with Apple products on the AT&T network.
You can watch all the O's games on MASN (or ESPN or Fox) on DirecTV, which you'd sure better do, because you don't want to end up with your house exploding, or end up in a ditch, or end up going to your own funeral as a guy named Phil Shifley. And you can drive that BMW 320i sedan to and from all the Orioles games you'll go to with your season tickets that you decided to buy, with hair that Nate McLouth would envy thanks to Head and Shoulders, all the while knowing your family is in good hands with CareFirst Blue Cross and Blue Shield.
It's fun to dream, isn't it? In the meantime, I hear if you're looking for fertilizer, you should try the starting rotation, because it's full of manure.