Sunday, June 12, 2011

Why we only like to watch live sporting events

An argument I've heard from sports economists goes something like this:

"Replays of historic games on ESPN Classic get very low ratings. That must be because fans don't like to watch games where they already know who wins. So you should expect fans to be happier when there's lots of doubt as to who wins. Fans must want to watch games where teams are evenly matched, because that's where the outcome is most in doubt."

I never bought into that logic at all. For one thing, there's a huge difference between a game where you 100% know who wins, and one where you only know 99% who's going to win (think lottery ticket buyers). For another thing, there's more to "uncertainty of outcome" than who wins ... I've watched womens' hockey games where uncertainty is whether Canada will outscore Bulgaria by 19-0, or 22-0, or only 16-1.

Anyway, I could go on, but Chuck Klosterman has an excellent post on why we prefer live games to taped games, even when we *don't* know the outcome in advance. I think he nails it.

Hat Tip: Tyler Cowen



At Thursday, June 16, 2011 2:07:00 PM, Blogger Cyril Morong said...

I don't agree with much he says. I have been recording and later watching games for years. For NBA & NHL playoff games, I just watch them first thing in the morning. Having the fast forward button makes it about an hour, depending upon how many replays I want to watch, etc. If a game gets too lopsided I just put the whole thing on fast forward, but watching the score to see if gets closer. This saves alot of time. And now, with DVRs I just start watching about 90 minutes after the actual start. I still enjoy the game and it still seems plenty dramatic to me.


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