Posts Tagged ‘American sports’

Super Bowl Timezone Trauma

Every year in the UK there is talk of Super Bowl parties at which American expats host a few friends for a through-the-night beer and TV session. Due to the Obama factor, interest is probably as high this year as for a long time but there is a catch. The broadcast starts at 11pm. 

A few hardy souls will make it through to 3am to see the end of the game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Arizona Cardinals but the number of viewers, beyond those watching 30 second news clips, cannot be large. For most other European Union countries, the broadcast is either one or two hours later than in the UK. From China through to New Zealand the Super Bowl takes place on a Monday morning. In short, it takes a lot of effort watch the Super Bowl live for anybody living outside of North and South America.

The timing is impossible for morning newspapers in Europe but it works well online. It’s noticeable that some sports journalists will be reporting from Tampa on newspaper blogs, such as the Guardian and L’Equipe

The major American sports have all made efforts, to a greater or lesser extent, to develop beyond the US market in recent years. By far the most successful is basketball, which has long had a loyal fan base in numerous European countries such as Italy and Spain (the current world champions). The influx of overseas players into the NBA from countries as diverse as Argentina and China has produced a natural news hook to drive interest.

As ice hockey is popular in north and central Europe, the NHL tried hosting early season  games in Sweden and the Czech Republic, and with some success. Baseball, which has lost its Olympic status after the Beijing Games, seems likely to remain very much a minority pursuit outside of North and Central America, Japan and South Korea. 

Despite major investment, a professional European competition in American Football has never quite worked out but NFL games held in London for the last two years have been a big hit.  As the International Herald Tribune reported, 70,000 tickets for the game in October 2009 have already sold out.

So how could the NFL really build its market around the world? In contrast to basketball, it is difficult to
recruit many overseas players because the sport is not widely played outside the US.

I have the solution. The NFL could double the global viewing audience for the Super Bowl and increase interest in the sport dramatically with one simple tactic: stage matches in the middle of the day in the US so that they are live in the evening in Europe. And I would love to be in the meeting where a TV executive suggests it.

Ultimately the very success of the American sports in their home market makes them difficult to export. Owners, TV companies and all the other companies that make money from the fans have too much to lose to risk repackaging the sports for international markets.

Tonight’s Super Bowl will be a great spectacle but unfortunately audiences in Europe, Africa and Asia won’t see it.