It’s Not Just Newspapers: The Curious Case of Geico SportsNite
Last night I was watching a desultory Mets-Orioles game (ah, the magic of interleague play) and SNY ran a promo for Geico SportsNite, their sports-news show. Their big teaser: Another sports figure has been caught for steroids! Who? Tune in after the game to find out!
It’s not a new message: One night a while back SportsNite’s breathless tease was that I’d never guess where Plaxico Burress wanted to play now.
But I didn’t have to guess. If I had any curiosity about where Plaxico Burress wanted to play football (and hopefully not shoot himself in the thigh), I could have picked myself off the couch, walked over to my laptop, and typed a bit. Or, if that were too taxing, I could have reached over to pick up my iPhone. Ditto for that latest sports figure busted for steroids. (It was Sammy Sosa, something I’d known for at least 10 hours.)
Today news flows instantly to the Web and is passed along person-to-person through Facebook and Twitter and shared links and email and IM and SMS. The Web is a constant companion in offices, where employees’ screens can be used for personal matters — email, shopping and checking sports news — as well as actual work. (Lest employers bristle at that, the flip side of that is work now follows employees into their cars, homes and even onto airplanes. Fair’s fair.) Anyone interested in the carnage of performance-enhancing drugs or Plaxico Burress’s career prospects doesn’t have to wait for SportsCenter or Geico SportsNite or a chance to tune in to talk radio. They know already. Geico SportsNite’s model has been discarded and is thoroughly irrelevant.
SNY may think this doesn’t matter — Mets fans will want to see highlights again (particularly if the Mets have won, as they sometimes do) and Geico SportsNite fits the comforting rhythms of the sports fan’s evening: pre-game show, game, post-game show, sports news. And I’m sure that’s true for some viewers. But I’m also sure that those viewers are aging, and not being replaced by younger viewers. 2009’s sports fans aren’t going to wait around for TV news and highlights any more than 1989’s sports fans would have waited for tomorrow’s sports section instead of watching that night’s SportsCenter.
This is essentially the same zombie path still trudged by some newspapers, and the solution is the same: Stop! Throw out the old model that was crafted before the rise of the consumer Web, and invent a sports-news show from today’s starting point.
What would that starting point be? Really, it’s twofold:
- Our viewers watched the Mets game. They know what happened.
- Our viewers are familiar with any big sports story that broke before first pitch.
That doesn’t mean the Mets game should be ignored — SNY is the Mets’ TV network, after all. It doesn’t mean Sammy Sosa doesn’t get discussed. Far from it. But it does call for the equivalent of a second-day story — the briefest of recaps (with plugs for up-t0-the-minute news on SNY’s Web site), followed by a deeper dive into the significance of that news.
Instead of putting together a highlights reel of the Mets game, get SNY’s analysts and former Mets players to focus on a key performance, play, at-bat or managerial move. Explain to viewers why it was crucial, or give a player’s perspective that fans can’t have. Look ahead to tomorrow night’s game, arming viewers with a scouting report of the next day’s pitcher, the incoming team, and key matchups. Offer some historical parallels between the Mets’ season so far and previous seasons, or between a young player and how noted Mets of the past were performing at that point in their careers. Give viewers something they don’t know, in other words. Then do the same for Sosa, or Burress, or the other big stories. Analyze and either look forward or back.
Will the old way still work? Sure — for an audience that’s exiting, dwindling daily and becoming less relevant and valuable. Better to focus on the audience that’s arriving.