Now, Even Sports Won’t Be Safe From Politics

If you hoped to avoid politics by watching some baseball and football over the next four months, you’re kind of screwed:

ESPN will kick off an effort to allow more political ads on college and NFL football programs in October and November, according to a report.

The sports network signed on with NCC Media LLC, an ad-sales venture, to sell a larger portion of its advertising time to political campaigns, The Wall Street Journal said. The network is selling NCC advertising inventory that the network would have normally sold to national advertisers for the fall.

Ed Hardt, ESPN’s president of global customer marketing and sales, told the newspaper that there is “great demand” for political advertising from “political parties and the super PACs.”

Thus, in the crucial two months before the November election, viewers can expect their shotgun formations and weak-side blitzes to be occasionally peppered with pitches for Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, among other candidates.

It’s hard to blame ESPN for going this route given the volume of political ads we’re likely to see from campaigns, SuperPACs, and other third party groups over the next four months. Still, is nothing sacred?

FILED UNDER: 2012 Election, Entertainment, Sports, US Politics, , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Jeremy says:

    Oh lord.

  2. al-Ameda says:

    if more ads means less Joe Buck or Chris Berman, then I think that’s a necessary trade off.

  3. @al-Ameda:

    Sadly, I don’t think that’s how it’s going to work out

  4. al-Ameda says:

    @Doug Mataconis:
    You’re right. What was I thinking?

  5. Smart move by ESPN, which means that the on-air sports networks will copy it. While technology exists to skip commercials, people still like to watch their sports live. I kid you not -in an amazing turn of events, the major television networks televise sporting events LIVE on the West Coast! I know it’s hard to believe, since we never see anything live out here, but sporting events are the rare exception.

    If Tebow endorses Romney, the networks are going to make multiple billions.

  6. James H says:

    Last time I tried to watch a cute kitten video on YouTube, I had to sit through 60 seconds on how Obamney is ruining the economy.

    On my to-do list when I win the lottery: Buy strategically placed YouTube ads, such that anybody who wants to watch the latest political commercial first has to sit through 60 seconds of cute, cuddly kittens.

  7. James H says:

    If Tebow endorses Romney, the networks are going to make multiple billions.

    “The New York Jets backup quarterback supports Mitt Romney. Shouldn’t you?”

  8. Tsar Nicholas says:

    Nothing is as sacred as the almighty dollar.

    That aside, I would have to question the strategy of political advertising on ESPN. It’s one thing to put funny money ads on YouTube. ESPN, however, costs real money. That network’s demographics are skewed very young. That’s problem No. 1. Even in this day and age not every TV out there in Zombieland has ESPN. That’s problem No. 2. Hell, a lot of working class sports fans can’t even come close to being able to afford ESPN. Of course not all too many sports fanatics vote, much less are tuned into the details of politics. That’s problem No. 3.

    If I were running one of these campaigns I’d spend every penny I had to get on the idiot box on the three major networks, or their respective local affiliates, and I’d blast Zombieland at large with attack ads, during prime time and to a lesser extent during daytime prime time, so to speak. Otherwise IMO you’re throwing good money after bad and small demographics.

  9. Dave E. says:

    @al-Ameda: Well, it was a good thought.

  10. James Joyner says:

    Could they turn down political advertising if they wanted to? Legally, I mean?

  11. @James Joyner:

    I believe there are a laws that apply to to that question when it comes to over-the-air broadcast television. I am not sure how, or if, they apply to cable networks

  12. Franklin says:

    I’m not sure why politicians bother raising money and buying up ad time. After all, superdestroyer just informed us in another thread that “money does not really affect politics that much”.

  13. Murray says:

    @James Joyner:
    “Could they turn down political advertising if they wanted to? Legally, I mean? ”

    So legislating fund raising limits violates the first amendment but restricting access to media outlets doesn’t?

  14. SKI says:

    @James Joyner: I’m pretty sure they can – as long as it is by category, not party. They can decide that a certain type of advertisements, political ones in this case, don’t fit their preferred aesthetic for their event.