Virtual ads distracting from World Series

There was a moment last night when baseball fans watching the World Series were reminded that baseball stadiums are basically studios for a TV production. What you see isn’t what’s really there.

It was this moment. When George Springer was swallowed by a credit card.

The super-imposed ad wasn’t supposed to block the rightfielder. It was supposed to appear to be on the wall of Dodger stadium. Many of the ads you see at the stadiums aren’t really there.

This one actually is (although the one on the left isn’t). It’s been placed strategically to make the “play” button appear in the middle of your screen. If it distracts from the game — and it does — that’s just the way baseball executives and Fox Sports want it.

Ain’t technology something?

The technology even allows geographic targeting. Fans in Minnesota, for example, might see an entirely different ad on the outfield wall than fans in Los Angeles.

“People know anybody can buy television ads, but being there has more of an element of being integrated,” an ad agency for a Panamanian airline that bought time on the World Series international feed last year.

The YouTube ad is significant because it attempts to distract the viewer. The ad becomes bigger than the game itself.

“When you’re actually watching online, once you press ‘play,’ that button disappears. Yet there it was, unmoving. And moving me to uttering expressive words of discomfort,” CNet’s Chris Matysczyk writes. “There are some who believe that great advertising is all about distracting the viewer toward your product. I don’t believe, however, that it’s about annoying you into loving that product.”

  • Gary F

    On another note, Game 1, 2 hours 28 minutes. Imagine that.

    I thinking ads with be superimposed on the chest protector and the pitchers butt. Give it time.

    • Do you go out to a dinner with the goal to get it over with as soon as possible?

      A good baseball game is a good baseball game despite its length. A bad baseball game is a bad baseball game regardless of its length.

      That said, shut it off after 7 because I was bored with it and convinced that the art of manufacturing runs is lost forever to a game of homeruns and strikeouts.

      • Postal Customer

        Disagree. Games flat-out run too long these days. They were more entertaining when they moved faster. Last night they talked about Game 4 of the 1963 World Series. That one lasted 1hr 50min. Advertisers would scream bloody murder now.

        Going out to dinner isn’t a fair analogy. I don’t stop my dinner every ten minutes to watch some commercials. I don’t sit in silence for 20-30 seconds at a time, 100 times during the dinner.

        Baseball loses me during commercial breaks and the insufferable pitching changes. I sit down with this ideal vision in my mind of watching the great American game — in October! Doesn’t get any better! Oops, pitching change. Read to my kid, find something on the internet. Ain’t gonna waste my time watching ads.

        Last night I went to floss and brush as a pitching change commenced. That generally takes me about 6 minutes. I came back to the game only to find that I had completely missed the pitcher I watched trotting onto the field — there had been ANOTHER pitching change while I was gone, and that guy was now on the mound. Hilarious!

        • I can’t think of a single game in 50+ years of watching baseball that is etched in my memory because it was played quickly.

          But, yes, I find Dave Roberts’ sabrmetrics handling of his pitching staff to be stain on the purity of the game, as evidenced by the reaction of Rich Hill.

          OTOH, if *my* team ever wants to do that to win a world series, I’m all for it.

          BTW, I think it’s funny that the game many consider the best World Series game in history — Game 7 1991, 1-0 Twins … was 3:23. Last night’s game was a full hour longer.

    • Jim in RF

      I read somewhere that some fans were pissy that they didn’t get to watch much baseball, considering the ticket price. People can think some weird things, but that’s right up there.

    • crystals

      I didn’t have a problem with the length of last night’s game. It made sense in the context of the pitching changes and extra innings. What a game.

  • Rob

    Forget the virtual ads – what drives me nuts are the virtual strike zone and path-of-ball tracker. What hath the gods wrought?

    • I don’t mind seeing that.

      I’m just waiting for the inevitable return of the “glowing puck” in hockey and the gnashing of teeth THAT will bring.

      • ec99

        I think they finally came to the conclusion that only hockey fans watch hockey, and know how to keep track of the puck.

        • Capn

          Agreed. But a bigger reason the glowing puck won’t come back is that everybody has HDTVs now and can actually see the puck. I definitely had a hard time seeing it on little tube TVs and thought the glow was a nice aide. The trail behind the puck on hard shots was totally ridiculous though and only for show, but a 10 year old might like it.

          Personally, I think the strike zone overlay should be used only for replays. I don’t need it for the live action; it’s just another distraction.

    • lusophone

      Anyone know what the percentage of agreement is between the on screen tracker and the umpire’s calls? I was thinking they could have a feed in the ump’s ear and instantly tell him if its a strike or a ball. Probably wouldn’t even really need an umpire at that point.

      • MikeB

        I like the virtual strike zone and it has improved the game, as many of the broadcast technology changes have. The umps over time pay attention to the real strike zone. The ads, inevitable.

        • I’m getting tired of seeing catchers pull balls out of the dirt and raise the glove a foot trying to get the call. I appreciate a good glove man as much as the next guy, but sometimes it gets ridiculous.

          • MikeB

            That reminds me of flopping in the NBA, players do it because it works in getting the whistle. They won’t call a charge if the defender isn’t knocked down. Not sure how much framing works, but it has become routine now, maybe to soothe the pitchers as well.

          • ec99

            Hockey managed to control taking a dive by penalizing it. Tough on the Russian players.

  • wjc

    I watched a half inning of baseball on Tuesday for the first time in a long time. When did they start having mini-commercials in the middle of an inning? All of a sudden, the game window shrank to about 1/4 of the screen and was surrounded by an ad for I can’t remember what. Has this been going on for a long time?

    • crystals

      I hadn’t ever seen it until Game 1 of this World Series. We found the 30 second fast forward button very helpful. (We record & start watching about 45 minutes in, so we can FF through commercials/pitching changes/etc. yet still end the game on schedule.)

      • wjc

        Wow! So the network and advertisers invented a special kind of hell just for this WS. Fabulous!

      • KariBemidji

        Golf has been doing it all summer.

        • wjc


    • joetron2030

      I’ve seen similar with NASCAR, F1 and Indy car races on TV, too. I hate it.

  • Erick

    I remember when my sixth grade teacher had the janitor roll a B&W television into the classroom so we could all watch a World Series day game. I didn’t really care about either of the teams, but still the best Series. (well except maybe ’87)

    • >>well except maybe ’87<<

      You mean the '91 series of course.


    • I faked being sick so i could stay home to watch Koufax vs. the Twins in ’65 (I didn’t even live in Minnesota).

      In ’67, I remember the principal coming on the PA to announce that Jose Santiago had hit a homerun in game one for the Red Sox to counter Bob Gibson’s homerun. And the class cheered.

      At that point, Mrs. Giambraco was unusually stern with us in telling us to pipe down and that a baseball game wasn’t important.

      We didn’t know her son was in Vietnam at that moment and under siege in some town we’d never heard of.

      Baseball is life’s yardstick.

      • >>I faked being sick so i could stay home to watch Koufax vs. the Twins in ’65 (I didn’t even live in Minnesota).<<

        The only WS home game the Twins have ever lost.

      • Erik Petersen

        That Koufax game is on Youtube. Anyone with intermediate or better baseball appreciation should go watch it, cuz… its 2 hours of Koufax.

        Kershaw’s similarity to him is obvious.

        The conversational wisdom on Koufax is he was this ‘stylish lefthander’. There’s some cultural overtones there. Its BS anyway, that was a power ass whipping, sitting at 100 mph. Struck out, what, 14 in that game?

  • Cedric Chin

    Fox & advertisers do not care about what we think. They figure the next generation will get used to it. But they are destroying the essence of the game. The only thing that may stop them is to stop watching. Sadly, they’ll just charge viewers more to watch on cable, and advertisers will charge more for their products.

  • jon

    Skip the virtual ads on real baseball, and just go straight to full virtual baseball.

  • Bill LIndeke

    Those ads are very annoying. You’d think MLB would have some standards. Thanks for pointing this out.

    • MikeB

      They do have standards. Millions and millions and millions of standards – $$$$

  • Capn

    More ads on the field and uniforms should mean fewer or no commercial breaks, a la soccer. Basketball, football and hockey should take a cue from soccer (they won’t), which is a much better viewing experience. Football literally has 15 minutes of action in 3 hours. In baseball, however, changing sides and pitchers takes forever anyway, so I don’t know what to do about that.

    • That’s the other advertising element of this year’s Series. The between pitches “and now a message from …” with a short inserted video ad.

  • Paul