Monday, December 04, 2006

Inframarginal Football Fans

In response to last week’s post on the death of the TV theme song, Trent McBride forwarded me another example of how satisfying marginal customers can reduce the utility of inframarginal customers: sportscasting for non-fans.
[Why I like] Marv [Albert] and Boomer [Esiason]: Let's just say that they're more up my alley than their TV counterparts on Monday night. And why? Because they concentrate solely on telling us what's happening and why. They avoid anecdotes and insta-puff pieces and don't worry about appealing to non-football fans with those compact, adorable, 45-second yarns about how some player made it to the NFL even though he was raised by jackals, or some player is playing again even though he donated a kidney to a Somalian refugee he met at a Costco over Thanksgiving, that kind of stuff. (Maybe I'm heartless, but I just don't care. I want to watch football.) Marv and Boomer aren't name-dropping coordinators and deluging us with information and anecdotes that we don't need to hear. They aren't awkwardly setting each other up for jokes and they aren't pushing the game aside for celebrity guests.
Trent adds, “I know a lot of football fans who would agree with this, and very few who would not.” The devoted sports fans are the inframarginal customers in this scenario; the unreliable watchers, who might not even care much for sports to begin with, are the marginal customers. The latter group’s preferences are those that affect the producers' selection of sportscasters, because the fans will watch anyway. The problem could potentially be reduced via the deployment of selective muting technology (you can mute the color commentator while keeping the play-by-play), or technology that gives viewers multiple sportscaster options for the same game on the same channel, much as DVDs include multiple language tracks. The question is why producers would bother providing the additional tracks for viewers who will tune in regardless.

1 comment:

mike said...

I fantasize about a system in which multiple broadcasters buy the rights to show the actual game and each adds their own commentators, so that sports fans can choose the sort of reporting they prefer. unlikely, I suppose. at least until there's some kind of realtime-podcasting type technology whereby I can tune into my favorite blogger's play-by-play while I watch on tv with the sound muted.