Why Happiness is Not a Game Seven

College football season is starting this weekend and the NFL starts this weekend.  The BCS has incentivized Schools to schedule games that boost their strength of schedule ratings – which has created probably the best opening College football weekend ever.  Four games featuring two top 25 teams and four games with top 25 teams facing legitimate competition.   No more “cupcake” games where big schools maul a significantly under matched opponent.  BCS rankings (the ranking system that determines who plays in the college playoffs) uses strengths of schedule as key criteria.  So simple wins are not a very valuable.

Which means from the first game on September 1st to the BCS Championship Game on January 9th 2017 every game and every weekend matters.  The NFL does not have the same do or die importance as college football (since about one third of the teams make the playoffs).  But given betting and fantasy football almost all  NFL games are of consequence.  Versus 162 games of baseball or 82 games of basketball where each game (other than the playoffs) really don’t matter.  Too many games for any one game to have meaning.  Games without meaning means fans without life and death passion.

Which gets us the the NBA and NFL playoffs.  They are a best of seven series.  Here is the dirty secret – revenue wise game six has less than half the revenue that games one through four and game seven has almost no fresh advertising money (incremental dollars versus money that is shifted around from another part of the schedule).   The irony is games six and seven generally have the highest ratings in the series.  Why is this?

First you never know who will make the playoffs.  The last four World Series had  Kansas City, St Louis and Detroit.  Four cities that are not top markets and do not draw audiences.  Versus Cleveland and LeBron which is a smaller city team with big TV ratings appeal.  Four sure it was positive that the NY Mets, Boston and San Francisco were their competition but its better if two big city teams on different coasts play.  So LA Dodgers vs. NY Yankees or Boston is a dream scenario.  So if you are a media buyer that is launching a new car are you going to bet the farm on a good World Series matchup or just buy Ohio State vs Michigan, Auburn vs. Alabama, USC vs. Notre Dame college football games.  If you don’t want to be second guessed later buying those college football games is a no brainer.  Especially since the demographics f0r college football is younger, more educated and higher salaried than baseball.

Second the 2016 World Series is scheduled from October 27 to November 4th, right at the end of the 3rd quarter.  TV is budgets are generally allocated between four quarters throughout the year.  The money is purchased in advance in “upfront” buys or opportunistically closer to the date as a “scatter” buy.  Going back to the automotive media buyer, you don’t get rewarded for not achieving your audience reach goals and you get fired if you don’t reach those goals and you have not spent the money budgeted for this quarter.   So given the uncertainty of the potential match ups, and the lower statistical probability of a game six or seven, you are not going to keep money lying around.  So at best the demand to buy ads in game six or seven is lukewarm to nonexistent.   FYI most TV networks do their financial budgets based on best of seven series having 5 games.

So other than the fans, for media companies happiness is not a game seven