Why NESN Is Fading

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There must be a lot of hand-wringing going on at NESN Headquarters on Arsenal Street in Watertown. Ratings are way down for Red Sox broadcasts, and the once endless flow of money is slowing to a trickle. “How can this be?”, they must be asking.

Here are some possibilities. First, the local nine are pretty vanilla in their 2010 incarnation. With Pedey in a walking boot, Papelbon in a blown save funk, and Ellsbury caged by his ribs, Bill Hall and Eric Patterson are just not setting off any viewer fireworks. But, this can’t be the major reason. No matter what anybody says, this is a baseball town. Close to 38,000 still cram the near-100 year old relic on Yawkey Way with Pink Hat enthusiasm every game. We don’t care if they’re boring, they’re ours.

I think the real reason is a lackluster NESN broadcasting product. The Red Sox telecasts are so over-burdened with “drop-in” advertising schlock that you can barely keep up with the balls and strikes. You can literally hear Jerry Remy more often hyping the New York Life “safe at second” pop-up ad than the actual double that got the player to that base. It seems there is a different and more annoying ad after almost every pitch. Literally. It’s getting ridiculous. And it’s getting in the way of enjoying the game. I know they have to make money from advertising–but have some degree of proportionality, for crying out loud.

There’s also another dynamic going on. As more and more fans get the MLB TV package, other team’s broadcasts are seen as more interesting, less ad-heavy and more high-tech. For example, several team broadcasts (even the lowly Pirates games) have Super Slow-Mo replays–which are light years better than the 1990s technology still employed by NESN. This is basically the same phenomenon that makes Fenway Park look so dated and old after you’ve seen Safeco and AT&T.

So, if the Sox want to re-open the money spigot, they has better get up to speed on the technology and cut back on the dumb drop-in ads. That would be a good start.

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