At the beginning of the 1990s, the broadcaster Premiere integrated itself into the television landscape. A pay channel that collects(d) money by the division for the programme offer. A new television concept. Of course, the station expected the main advertising effect to come from the exclusive rights to broadcast the German football Bundesliga. In the early days, only one match was broadcast at a time, the rest of the results were shown at the bottom of the screen.
It was something of a revolution to be able to watch one of the matches being played in parallel live on your TV at home. The reason why it seemed unthinkable is obvious: one would have to fear that the viewer would settle comfortably in his armchair at home and refrain from going to the stadium. This would possibly be the lesser problem for the game being broadcast, since it can be assumed that the two clubs playing at the time not only have a contract that is certainly favourable, which ensures them higher income – apart from the short-term negative impact on the atmosphere in the stadium due to a lower number of spectators – but can also advertise their club (and the players for themselves). The bigger problem is that the players playing in parallel would have to reckon with a loss of spectators – just think of bad weather, where some people would certainly like to stay at home and miss their own team’s game, but not football – for which no one would be prepared to pay, so in that sense they would veto it vigorously – and rightly so.
Sure, everything is a question of money. Apart from that, the problem of losing spectators in Germany does not arise in this way at least. There is no substitute for going to the stadium. In this familiar atmosphere, you look exclusively at this game with a completely different eye. If one could speak of “losses”, then only in the sense that an even bigger, possible boom was prevented. But the stadiums are well utilised even in the winter months. And the question of money is also quite simple: to avoid jealousies or injustice, there is a big pot where all the money goes – the broadcaster, once Premiere, later Sky (which might give you pause for thought; but more about that later) paid all the money into this pot — and the clubs are supposed to split the sum halfway amicably.
This marketing concept gave the buyer a relatively free hand. The vexed kick-off times are a minor problem — as was shown not only in questions of justice regarding the European Cup appearances of the German teams — where above all the question was/is to be clarified what the paying stadium-goer accepts, but also how much salami the TV viewer is prepared to swallow. Parallel matches continue to have their appeal – among other things, it lies in the fact that several teams are in competition for positions in the standings. Gradually, however, people are getting used to the fact that they will not have a complete, full and respectable table picture until Monday.
With this free hand, the broadcaster Premiere decided to implement a completely new, revolutionary idea. At first it was just a fantasy, but gradually it became reality. Technically, more and more seemed feasible, so why not: let’s do a conference broadcast. The Bundesliga is such a powerful brand, almost every (excuse me: male) German citizen has reserved 50% of Saturday afternoons, at least mentally, for the 1st League, the Sportschau has a fixed place. But since “man” also has a family, a kind of “sideline” was established very early on – and was integrated into all marriage contracts, even if only mentally: “Yes, you can turn on the radio. We’ll still do something together, but between 3.30pm and 5.15pm you’re off duty.” Something like that.
And this seemed to promise the beautiful and bulging goldmine. From today – after realisation – you, man, can no longer reserve those two hours or so for the radio, you get the action live on your TV screen. All the games, all the goals, all live, that sounds like something. You’re prepared to pay something for that, apart from TV and radio licence fees, aren’t you? That is the view of the great exclusive rights representative.
Having reached these points, however, a little criticism, or at least thoughtfulness, is already beginning to set in. Sure, it has an initial effect. You have something new, something unique. You don’t get that abroad either. Not only can you choose the “conference” option, but for every fan of a team that unfortunately has to play away from home, there is the individual broadcast, by the way, with someone other than the conference reporter, just for the record. The viewers are interested, there’s no question about that. One even thinks about how one can use this diversity as one would like? Pick out a game that has a special character, or wait until you realise that a game has a special tension to offer, just like that, from goal order or course? Switch back and forth? Stay on the conference option? Well, as I said, it’s already critical here. Because: the viewer should decide for himself. Such a situation is unusual. One might not necessarily want it? If your “own” team is playing, fine. If not, what then?
The criticism begins to intensify a little. After all, who, pray tell, at the organiser’s has ever bothered with audience interest? Are ratings even taken into account? Who watches which option? The failure to include viewer interest is not only in the comments but also here: Why are people simply not interested? Surveys? Questionnaires? Phone calls? Viewer-only broadcasts? Specially commissioned surveys?
So the special highlight should be the conference call – analogous to the radio conference of yesteryear. The cause and effects mentioned above already point to some concerns about it. How did the viewer react? How does he accept it? What does he want? Observations of this – as can easily be made (not so easily any more, as many already part with it) in pubs and cafés that were/are equipped with Premiere/Sky: The Sky conference runs exactly analogous to the earlier radio broadcast. People are very much interested in scores, goal sequences, goal scorers or suspense. You very much want to hear short inserts of special moments – penalties, sending off, a late equaliser – but you don’t want to watch, you don’t do it. It’s on in the background, on the side, and when someone calls out “Goal in Dortmund”, you look briefly, say to your neighbour “Ah, Dortmund 2:0, did you see? Who scored? The … again”, and then you turn your attention back to the other people at the table or to your beer or coffee. That’s it. The realisation is clear: it’s good and nice that I’m informed here. Nice that they offer it to me here. Nice that I can sit here with a few friends – who come for the same reasons as I do. But watching football? No, you don’t. It’s quite interesting, funny, entertaining, with the usual limitations (including the commentary), but for home? You would never buy that. No, what for? You could always turn on the radio. Why pay extra for something like that? You can still see the pictures on the sports show. There is a clear reason for this: anyone who has tried to watch football, to watch football seriously, with one of the (offered) conference programmes finds out that it is not possible, you don’t get anything, not in a way that is interesting. No match progressions, no right assessments. That is the reality.
It may be that the problems were recognised (hmhm, considerable doubts, since that does require thinking), because later they started competing with themselves. Was it the observation that the subscription figures just wouldn’t go up, whatever mysteriously wanted to be responsible for that? The decision was made to spread the match days even further apart. New kick-off times, more live games — less conference. Somehow the customer has to accept something?
The competition with itself looks like this: The special offer is supposed to be to be constantly informed about all the action (don’t forget: it’s called “all games, all goals!”) in a conference call (including this one! is the viewer already overtaxed?). At the same time, however, action is being taken away from it by reducing the number of parallel matches to five (from nine) in the meantime (as of August 2010). Friday evening should be kept free for the first match. On Saturday afternoon you are supposed to switch on and watch the conference anyway, which has already mutated into a sham as a result (?! paid for already!), on Saturday evening you are supposed to watch the next exclusive live match, and for Sunday it is clear that you have two appointments in the afternoon? Translated for wife and children, that means: the whole day. No, you don’t go along with that. “The conference might be … if they … and if she didn’t… One live game, well, maybe, but four, and hardly any conference? The family mutinies. And so does the wallet. No, it’s too expensive and too much time away. Never, without me.”
So far, the small problems have been pointed out, which of course are partly self-made – spectators have to be integrated in the decisions — but which at the same time may represent a general problem. How much is football really worth? Simply orienting oneself on foreign figures (sure, Sky, England, it works there) is not enough. But if one has now decided to go this way, then one must at least advertise the goods well, right? If one would be so stupid as to put oneself on the market with rotten eggs, then the last thing one would do would be to proclaim them as “rotten eggs, small and expensive” as well.
One has now created this landscape, produced it as it is. It remains to be seen whether this is a promising concept for the future. Let’s say, to push the comparison even further, you bought eggs for 10 cents a piece, you would have to charge 30 cents for the piece to be profitable, but next to you is another market crier offering his for 25 cents, what do you do with the goods you bought? Crush them on your own skull and bury your head in the sand afterwards? Give them away? Continue to proclaim them lazy, too expensive for that? Just lower the price and live with the loss, at least sell them and come up with a new concept for next year?
At least now you have the chance to present the purchased goods well. That is the minimum. In terms of football and the conference circuit, the actual state of affairs is sad as usual: Special emphasis is placed on eggs being particularly small, shrivelled, ugly and expensive. And it is shouted especially loudly. Perhaps if one said nothing at all, the goods would still be okay. But no, they insist. Everything is rotten and stinks, and the one person who nevertheless stops and wants to decide to buy is then best advised against it. “There is really nothing here, neither worth seeing, nor hearing, nor buying. Please move on.”
First of all, this situation is to be examined quite concretely, which one can find in a (seriously pursued! The usual claim remains that no one listens to the unbelievable drivel any more anyway) “conference” (sure, the word still applies, but announcing five out of nine as “all games” is cheeky).
At the start of the game, there is always some pretence of anticipation or excitement (as a speaker). After 10 to 20 minutes at the latest, it turns out that the speaker is already watching the first football match of his life again (how is that possible? Only neurologists can help with that), because everything is disappointingly bad for him. The actions don’t succeed and if one does, it’s the opponent’s fault for not stopping it. Well, there is only one measure for the success of an action, and that is a goal. If that happens, the reflex is triggered by this incredible chain of errors. The usual, then. If he could remember last week: It was the same there. Maybe an observation to remember about the week: Football is like that. By the way, an expert is only distinguished by the fact that he recognises good as well as bad performances in the same proportion. That would be the sign that he knows the level.
Here, in the conference, there is the small difference: because the viewer – as the commentator is aware – only hears the short inserts, he always has to be briefly brought up to date, but at the same time the speaker feels protected for the nonsense he has spouted by the fact that the missed event was only seen by him. So when he says: “In the last few minutes the team got a little better …” (you very rarely hear something positive like that, but it can happen) then he is basically now even more indifferent as to whether it was like that. This is just one example. You hear “a very weak game here” in about four out of five – but regularly and repeatedly, at the latest from the 20th minute onwards, in all seats.
The best thing is always to pass it on to the next commentator: “There’s nothing going on here, how’s it going with you, Tom?” And Tom then: “No, there are no goals here either, I can’t help with that. But the game isn’t any better here otherwise either.” Something like that. The ball is passed beautifully to each other, perfect interplay, you could call it, and in view of the poor performances observed in all the seats, the commentators can celebrate themselves wonderfully. The last captured scene before giving away always looks like this: “we’ll take him quickly, no, on to Leverkusen”. Doesn’t that convey real drama and tension? “We’ll take him with us. No…” He was really spellbound. “We’ll take him with us.” The pinnacle of drama to be captured. A highlight of the reporter’s art.
Facets are not shown, no differentiation, every result is deserved anyway, since everyone knows that the goals count, what do you want to discuss? “Schangsen, Schangsen, Schangsen, don’t tell me about it. They don’t count for anything if you don’t score.”
Everyone seems happy to pass on. “There’s nothing going on here. Go on to…” When a game threatens to become really exciting, he is in a particular hurry to pass it on. Just when a successful attack is underway, when you get the feeling that something could happen here, then they rush to the next spot. You ask yourself, why? Has all sense of what is at stake been lost there? Has any professional honour been lost in the annihilationist criticism that is constantly being spouted, which means wanting to/being able to/should/must entertain the audience? Especially in the conference, one would have the chance, no, the obligation, to tie the viewer to the events. One should only pass on in the knowledge that “unfortunately, at some point the others have to have their turn too.” Actually, here and with me is the action.
Now, however, come a few very specific points of criticism: The insight has been gained that, due to the string of empty phrases and generalities that come across in a negative, bored, sneering tone, no one can be expected to listen to a live commentary. In this respect, a second person is installed to commentate on the match at the same time, for the conference. One way to avoid this would be to simply create a successful live commentary. If there were such a commentary, it is conceivable that the viewer would be more than willing to accept it, even in the conference. An excited, positive, . passionate, optimistic commentator who would suddenly appear live in the conference call could move one to stay on the channel, select the option for the match or simply enjoy it? No permanent blunders and embarrassing actions, miserably missed scoring chances. An exciting game. What it is.
Well, the spectator-overwhelming variety is already a problem. But what if it were pleasing options?
But now there are two very critical remarks that in themselves dwarf the rest. It is actually an absolute MUST (well, showing a football match in a positive light is in itself also a must). In both cases:
Point 1 is that when a goal is called and you switch over to the channel – of course one of the great advertising media: you not only learn that a goal has been scored, you can also watch it – the goal must be shown in the making. In fact, however, only slow-motion shots from all possible perspectives are offered. The problem – and apparently not yet recognised – is that a slow-motion replay only brings enlightenment (in rare cases) if you have already seen the action in original speed. Then this or that little detail can become noticeable, it can also be beautiful, pretty to look at, inspiring, great. But only if you have already seen it in the original The reasoning is this: One knows the normal sequences of time, because one sees them run at well over 99.9% of the time in daily life, but also on the football pitch, always at exactly the same speed. That allows you to make judgements. In slow motion, you can’t really get an idea of how it was done, good or bad. There is an additional problem: the slow-motion replays are usually shot from unusual angles.
The viewer only senses this described circumstance intuitively. He doesn’t really look, as it is offered today, because he already knows that one doesn’t see anything really enlightening. You hear about the goal, you look up briefly because someone has spoken a little louder and colourful images are running, you might even look at the cheering.
The goals need to be shown in the normal setting and speed in full development, like they are shown on the sports show. Done well, this could really add new appeal to this mode of broadcasting. It is a duty to do that. This would have to be recognised. Maybe you’ll gain a few viewers.
By the way, this criticism does not only refer to the conference circuit, but also to individual live matches. At some point, we should understand that many television sets are still switched on. But very few of them are watching. They wait for a goal to be scored – and then they would really like to see it. This is denied by the endless slow-motion sequences. The replays played in this way do not provide any insights. One often consoles oneself by seeing the usual speed and perspective again afterwards (even at the interval).
Point 2, and this is paramount to everything (no, positively portraying is number 1, it’s just that it’s not like that anywhere in this country), is that there is never a sense of the really exciting games. Does everyone have their fixed times that are allotted to them, regardless of the course of the game, and which have to be adhered to thanks to vanity? The fact that they always want to pass on, especially when it’s really exciting, clearly speaks against this. In any case, it is a thing of impossibility that a game hanging in the balance, with a close score (1:1, 2:1) with obvious drama in the closing minutes, is faded out so that we are supposed to watch a 4:0 from thirteen camera perspectives (!) in slow motion. No, someone really didn’t hear the shot. By the way, it’s even worse when it comes to sending-offs, which are also casually handed in. Who cares about such things?
This phenomenon is pervasive. It can be observed everywhere and shows that either the feeling for beauty, tension and drama has actually been lost through the negative standard blah-blah – never been there is also possible, of course – or whether one feels obliged to be sober and wants to deprive the spectator of that extra? On practically every matchday – even if there are only five games left – there are two, at most three games that promise excitement. You stay on those. That’s the old radio conference that you were simply obliged to love. It’s also about tone of voice here, of course, and please, every one of these assigned “announcers” listen once just for the memory of what drove them into the profession, how to set their voice to “meaning swing”. “Here’s what’s happening, here’s what you need to stay on.” That has to be broadcast with every fibre of the body, with every vocal cord.
But for the conference, it’s clear: drama and excitement, that can only be the criteria here, and you have a chance, IN the last minutes of the game will be decided: This game and that game, the rest will be done only by fade-ins. The speakers have to join in, of course.