Shortening MLB Commercial Breaks is Nothing but Lip Service

By Derek Helling – Last Word On Baseball

Maury Brown reported on Friday in a Forbes article that Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred is open to considering shortening commercial breaks to improve the league’s pace of play. Fans shouldn’t expect much actual action on this front, however. Shortening MLB commercial breaks is nothing but lip service by Manfred.

Shortening MLB Commercial Breaks is Nothing but Lip Service

Manfred alludes to the main reason why this won’t actually happen in his comments in the interview.

There are contractual limitations on when we can do this; we have existing commitments.

The reality is that MLB gets a large portion – if not most – of its revenue from broadcast rights contracts. In order for the hundreds of millions of dollars that outlets like ESPN and FOX Sports pay to the league and its member franchises to be a worthwhile investment, the broadcasters have to be able to sell billions of dollars worth of advertising spots. They do that by packing several commercial spots of 30, 60, even 120 seconds into MLB games.

MLB and its 30 member franchises are businesses, first and foremost. Profit will always be the first loyalty and motivation. Baseball games are the primary product being sold to consumers. MLB will make many other changes to its product before it does something that could seriously affect its ability to land lucrative broadcasting rights contracts.

An argument could be made that broadcasters are so enamored with MLB games that they will accept whatever restrictions the league puts the number of commercials and the length of commercial breaks during their games. That may not translate to companies looking at purchasing advertising during those games, however. Fewer and shorter commercial breaks could force broadcasters to drive up the prices of those spots, and perhaps make potential advertisers less likely to pay those premium prices.

Manfred saying that the league is willing to consider reducing or shortening commercial breaks is exactly that. It isn’t a commitment to anything other than mere consideration. In order to actually effect that change, the numbers would have to somehow show the league that it could make more money than it is now by vacating the status quo.

With total league revenue set to surpass 11 figures in 2017, the numbers demonstrate the opposite. Don’t take Manfred’s comment on this matter as anything more than what it is at face value. The duration and number of commercials in MLB games aren’t going to be shortened anytime soon.

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