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"Longmire" lost out because of its older viewers

Fri, 2014-09-12 13:14

A&E is dropping the show "Longmire," even though it’s the second-most popular show on a cable network. This begs the question: why? It’s too old. Or more specifically, the median age of the show's viewers is 60, and advertisers aren’t interested in them.

It’s an age-old notion in advertising, that youth consumers are more valuable than older ones. There’s lots of reasons why advertisers think that, but one of them is, well, they’re young and they like to try — and buy — new things. Unlike old people, right?

Erin Read of the marketing firm Creating Results says that’s not true.

"There are a few myths when we talk about older people," Read says. "Older adults are stuck in their ways. They’re not going to try new brands. So why should I even bother advertising to them, right? Well, my grandmother would say, ‘Pshaw!'"

Reed says those stereotypes might have been true 50 years ago, but boomers are breaking them and shaking up their lives in ways that previous generations didn't.  

“They’re moving houses, their kids are leaving home, divorce,” she says. And all those changes are opportunities to try new brands and experiences.

People are also living longer, and they're more active. Cassie Mogilner, a marketing professor at Wharton, says that's affecting their consumer behavior.

 “Among older people who feel like they have a lot of time left, they’re actually behaving very much young people,” Mogilner says. “They’re looking for excitement as opposed to calming things.”

And like young people they’re willing to buy new products and experiences that bring that excitement. There is one big difference between young and old, says marketing consultant Kurt Medina.

“50-plus-ers account for something like 75 percent of all disposable income in the United States,” he says.

By side-stepping TV shows like "Longmire," Medina says, advertisers are missing the money pot.

How advertisers target younger versus older audiences

Chevrolet has taken on older target audiences in its ads, which feature a somewhat different tone than their commercials aimed at young consumers:

Versus:

What can the U.S. do to attack ISIS financially?

Fri, 2014-09-12 13:14

In his prime-time speech Wednesday night, President Obama outlined how he plans to attack the terrorist group ISIS militarily. But he said less about economic sanctions against ISIS. So the question remains: can the U.S. punish ISIS economically? 

Cash gushes into ISIS from lots of places: international donors, extortion from people in places it controls and black market oil sales. ISIS gets the oil from fields it captured in Iraq and Syria. So, one way to attack their finances would be to just go after that territory.

"[In Iraq] a number of oilfields were actually recaptured by the Iraqi army or Kurdish forces," says Robin Mills with Manaar Energy in Dubai, "and that obviously is the most direct way of preventing ISIS obtaining oil and selling oil."

Otherwise, your chances of closing the ISIS oil spigot are pretty limited. After it's pumped, Mills says the oil is trucked over the mountains to Turkey, where it melts away into a vast black oil market. But what about finding ISIS's rich donors, and hitting them with penalties and sanctions? Turns out, the ISIS benefactors are very hard to find.

"I think it's much more unclear who these people are, how they operate, where any assets they have might be," says Adam Slater, a senior economist at Oxford Economics.

Here's the other thing: ISIS is frugal. It doesn't need much money to function.

"They're not buying equipment, they're seizing equipment," says Ben Connable, an international policy analyst at the Rand Corporation. "They're not hiring people at high salaries.  They're purposefully hiring people at relatively low salaries."

So even if the U.S. did have clear, effective ways of cutting off the money, Connable says ISIS could still survive for a long time.

Portland's housing problem

Fri, 2014-09-12 11:18

Outsiders may think of Portland as its caricature on the comedy series "Portlandia," and picture great coffee, upscale restaurants, and a downtown boom.

But underneath that, Portland's wrestling with something many cities face when they grow: How to remain affordable.

The S&P/Case-Schiller Portland Home Price Index.

What's different in Portland, compared to the rest of the United States, is the law. Oregon is one of two states that doesn't require developers to set aside affordable housing when they build.

In the past, housing argued against proposed laws to include affordable housing requirements.

Jon Chandler, the CEO of the Oregon Homebuilder's Association, spoke recently with The Oregonian, a newspaper based in the area.

He didn't think politicians were invested in changing the law, "They're very serious about being seen fixing it, but they don't get serious about actually doing it."

There's another view in Portland, which is 76 percent white, that much of this is about race.

"Even now you're looking at that 'Portlandia' image, about how I'm a sober cycling vegan," says community activist Cameron Whitten. "There is that image that people come here for ... and at the same time, I've seen erasure. I've seen actual invisibility and silence of these communities that have been marginalized. That have identities that have not been celebrated in the same way that we've celebrated all these other things about Portland."

Can Uber replace your car?

Fri, 2014-09-12 11:15

About two years ago Kyle Hill sold his car. For anything over 3–5 miles away, he calls an Uber. 

He lives car-less in Los Angeles, the city of cars. Is his decision really feasible?

Kyle did some calculations and came up with "A Financial Model Comparing Car Ownership with UberX (Los Angeles)."

About two years ago I sold my 2000 Lexus GS 300 and replaced it with a sleek single-speed Pure Fix commuter bike. Two years later, I still bike to work every morning. And for anything over 3–5 miles, or when I’m just not feeling up for the workout, I call an Uber. I love the safety and convenience of Uber, the overall quality of their cars, and especially as a young black male, the peace of mind that I’ll never again have to deal with the police.

Tech IRL: Visiting TechCrunch Disrupt

Fri, 2014-09-12 10:59

Lizzie O’Leary talks with Marketplace Tech host Ben Johnson about the future of start-ups. Ben was in San Francisco this week at an annual event called TechCrunch Disrupt. It's part-Silicon Valley mogul party, part-start-up popularity contest, but it's also an event where venture capitalists and others get a sense of the future of start-ups ... and maybe invest.

Ben and the rest of the Marketplace Tech team will be highlighting what stood out from TechCrunch Disrupt over on their website throughout this week

Appetite for vocation

Fri, 2014-09-12 10:36

What motivates you to be successful? How far are you willing to go?

James Ellis dropped out of high school then … moved to New York City. He was determined to succeed. By any means necessary. After emails, letters, and phone calls failed to get him in the door, he decided a more direct approach was his only option. All he had to do was barge into a secure building, rush past the guard, and make it to the third floor undetected.

James Ellis and Steve Fritz on taking risks, not playing by the rules, and Guns N' Roses.

We're paying more for butter and milk. Way more.

Fri, 2014-09-12 09:30

Prices for dairy products like butter and milk have risen to record highs in the past few months in the U.S. due to a number of global factors, reports the BBC.

Prices for milk futures on the commodities markets have risen 26 percent over the last year, while the average price for a gallon of milk has risen about 5.7 percent to $3.64 in August, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The price of butter has also risen sharply, with U.S. customers seeing a 62 percent increase compared to last year, with an average price of $2.75 per pound for the second week of September.

The report from the BBC cites a number of possible reasons for the price increases, including a decrease in government regulation that depleted surpluses, greater demand from China, a drought affecting New Zealand's dairy farms and greater demand for pizza in the Middle East.

There may be some relief on the horizon, however, in the form of Russian sanctions. From the BBC:

In August, Russia implemented a one-year import ban on dairy and other food products from the European Union, US and other Western nations in retaliation for economic sanctions over Russia's role in the Ukraine crisis.

That removed an estimated $6.6bn (£4bn) in annual dairy trade from the global market. In 2013, the EU alone exported $3bn of dairy to Russia, of which cheese accounted for more than one-third.

In response, the European Commission has announced it will provide financial support to the dairy industry, subsidising private storage of cheese, skimmed milk powder and butter until they can be sold at a later date.

The glut of dairy products has weakened the international market and caused prices in Europe to drop.

U.S. dairy consumers could see similar relief in 2015, when suppliers start to build up surpluses once again.

The sweet story behind the U.S. Senate 'candy desk'

Fri, 2014-09-12 08:44

U.S. Senators, as one might surmise, rarely pass up an opportunity to tout their home states – what businesses are based there, what products are made there – and that trait is on display in an unusual place. It's at a spot in the back of the Senate chamber, known as the “candy desk.”

The history of the U.S. Senate’s candy desk goes back to 1965. Donald Ritchie, the head of the Senate Historical Office, says Sen. George Murphy (R-CA), “an old song-and-dance man,” had a sweet tooth.

“Sen. Murphy filled his desk drawer with candies, which he dipped into,” Ritchie says. “And then he invited his colleagues to stop whenever they wanted to.”

Murphy lost his seat in 1970, but the tradition continued. The desk, which is right by the main door to the Senate chamber, currently belongs to Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL). “You have a chance to sell your state’s products there,” he says. “Or talk about stuff.”

Today, it is chock full of candies manufactured in the Land of Lincoln. For Kirk, a fan of Chicago’s Ferrara Candy Company, it’s personal.

“They offered me all of the desks on the Republican side, and I wanted to make sure that those bastards in Hershey, Penn., couldn’t get the candy desk,” he says, laughing.

Kirk is referring, of course, to the Hershey Candy Company, which had a monopoly on senators’ sweets for years. The desk used to belong to Rick Santorum, and the former Republican senator from Pennsylvania filled it with Kit Kats and Kisses.

I asked all 100 senators to name their favorite candies, and they all seem partial to what is manufactured back home. New Hampshire’s Jeanne Shaheen likes dark chocolate salted caramels from Granite State Candy, for instance. Georgia’s Jonny Isakson likes Snickers, which include, he points out, Georgia peanuts.

The desk has suited some senators better than others. George Voinovich represented Ohio, a state not known for its confections. So, his tenure at the candy desk didn’t last long. “I think it was one year,” he recalls. “That was enough.”

George LeMieux used to sit at the desk. “I used to joke that it was an unfunded mandate that I had to provide candy for the rest of my senators,” he says. “But I was happy to do so.”

Kirk, the man currently charged with filling the candy desk’s drawers, likes Jelly Belly-brand jelly beans, and there are plenty of those in the candy desk, but he also stocks it with baby aspirin. He had a stroke in 2012, and a small daily dose of the pain killer, he tells his colleagues and constituents, can prevent strokes and heart attacks.

While this means there is less room for Illinois candy, Kirk is able to draw attention to another constituent: the company that makes the aspirin is based outside of Chicago. 

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The preferred candies of your elected officials

They may not be in charge of the candy desk, but we wanted to know anyway: What are your senator's favorite sweets? Below, a yearbook of the candies that melt hearts and minds:

Tammy Baldwin

D-Wisconsin

Ghiradelli Intense Dark 72% Cacao Twilight Delight Singles Richard Blumenthal

D-Connecticut

Wint-O-Green Life Savers Roy Blunt

R-Missouri

No comment John Boozman

R-Arkansas

Jelly Belly jelly beans Sherrod Brown

D-Ohio

Milky Way Ben Cardin

D-Maryland

Goetze's Original Vanilla Caramel Creams Tom Carper

D-Delaware

York Peppermint Pattie Bob Casey

D-Pennsylvania

Hershey's Milk Chocolate Bars Tom Coburn

R-Oklahoma

Hot Tamales Thad Cochran

R-Mississippi

Chocolate covered peanuts Susan Collins

R-Maine

Maine maple sugar candy Mike Crapo

R-Idaho

Snickers Dick Durbin

D-Illinois

Dark Chocolate Snickers Mike Enzi

R-Wyoming

Big Hunk Dianne Feinstein

D-California

See's Candies Dark Chocolate Jeff Flake

R-Arizona

3 Musketeers Kirsten Gillibrand

D-New York

No candy Tom Harkin

D-Iowa

Brach's Hard Candy Orrin Hatch

R-Utah

Jelly beans Martin Heinrich

D-New Mexico

Dark chocolate with sea salt Dean Heller

R-Nevada

Cinnamon bears Mazie Hirono

D-Hawaii

Snickers John Hoeven

R-North Dakota

Life Savers Gummies Johnny Isakson

R-Georgia

Snickers Ron Johnson

R-Wisconsin

Milky Way Tim Johnson

D-South Dakota

Chocolate Tim Kaine

D-Virginia

No candy, Dr. Pepper Angus King

I-Maine

Peppermint Mark Kirk

R-Illinois

Jelly Belly jelly beans Mary Landrieu

D-Louisiana

Snickers Patrick Leahy

D-Vermont

Anything chocolate Mike Lee

R-Utah

Jelly beans Joe Manchin

D-West Virginia

Peanuts Ed Markey

D-Massachusetts

Milky Way Dark Mitch McConnell

R-Kentucky

No candy Robert Menendez

D-New Jersey

Dark Chocolate M&M's Barbara Mikulski

D-Maryland

No candy Jerry Moran

R-Kansas

Peanut M&M's Chris Murphy

D-Connecticut

Twix Patty Murray

D-Washington

Dark chocolate peanut butter cups Bill Nelson

D-Florida

None Rand Paul

R-Kentucky

Snickers Jack Reed

D-Rhode Island

Baby Ruth Harry Reid

D-Nevada

Nuts James Risch

R-Idaho

Butterfinger Jay Rockefeller

D-West Virginia

Baby Ruth Marco Rubio

R-Florida

No comment Bernie Sanders

I-Vermont

No comment Brian Schatz

D-Hawaii

Cinnamon hard candy Chuck Schumer

D-New York

Snickers Jeanne Shaheen

D-New Hampshire

Red licorice and chocolate salted caramels from Granite State Candy Jon Tester

R-Montana

Butterfinger John Thune

R-South Dakota

Twin Bing Pat Toomey

R-Pennsylvania

3 Musketeers Mark Udall

D-Colorado

Toffee from Enstrom Candies (Grand Junction, CO) Tom Udall

D-New Meixco

Dark chocolate spiced with New Mexico red chile John Walsh

D-Montana

Baby Ruth and Milky Way Midnight Elizabeth Warren

D-Massachusetts

Mounds Sheldon Whitehouse

D-Rhode Island

Milky Way Dark Ron Wyden

D-Oregon

Milk chocolate

The numbers for September 12, 2014

Fri, 2014-09-12 06:45

Oscar Pistorius could face 15 years behind bars following his conviction for culpable homicide in the death of his girlfriend last year. It's equivalent to a manslaughter conviction, The New York Times reported, ruling that Pistorius was negligent when he shot Reeva Steenkamp through a bathroom door. He was acquitted of a murder charge Thursday. Pistorius won't be sentenced until next month.

Here are some other stories we're reading — and numbers we're watching — Friday morning.

$97

 The price of Brent crude oil in London on Thursday. Foreign Policy reports oil prices are at their lowest point in the past year and falling, despite numerous crises tearing through the Middle East.

289,310

 The number of people sharing "Game of Thrones" via BitTorrent during one sample week earlier this year, making "Thrones" the most pirated TV show of that week by far. This number is relevant again Friday amid reports from Quartz and others that HBO could offer its streaming service, HBO Go, to customers separate from cable packages. 

$9 million

How much Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen is donating to U.S. efforts to combat the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, Reuters reported. The donation will be made through Allen's foundation, which already committed $2.8 million last month. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation also promised to give $50 million to U.N. efforts this week.

10

Because it's Friday: That's the age of Fortune contributor Sabrina Lane. Sabrina has written an open letter to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, pleading with him to not change "Minecraft" — her favorite game — after Microsoft buys its maker.

PODCAST: Walmart's new wardrobe

Fri, 2014-09-12 03:00

Almost two years after Superstorm Sandy hit the East Coast, killing 72 people and causing $50 billion in damage, thousands of people may be asked to return some or all of the money they received from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, FEMA. And Walmart is putting in a new dress code for its employees, but they're not calling it a uniform. And that can create hardships for employees expected to pay for their new clothing. Plus, as Marketplace celebrates its 25th birthday this year, we are looking at the weird, delightful and destructive ways that prices have changed during that quarter century. But before our series gets to those, let's get a snapshot on what inflation is, exactly. 

The price of smoked salmon hasn't swum upstream

Fri, 2014-09-12 02:00

As Marketplace celebrates its 25th birthday this year, we'll be taking a look at what our dollar bought in 1989, and what it buys today.

Saul Zabar, president of the famed Upper West Side establishment Zabar's, can't remember what he was charging for smoked salmon 25 years ago. But a magazine from 1989 lists a Zabar's sale price: $15.95 a pound for Scotch salmon, pre-sliced. Sounds like a bargain, but as we'll be reminding ourselves during this series, you have to remember to adjust for inflation. $15.95 is more than $30 a pound in today's money.

Today, routinely, with no special sale, Saul charges under $24 a pound. In real terms, that's a 22 percent decline in 25 years.

Dr. Gunnar Knapp, a professor of economics at the University of Alaska, Anchorage, is an expert on the raw material that goes into smoked salmon. He points to the rise of farmed salmon as part of the explanation. 

Now, we shouldn't forget that farming salmon can have environmental costs. And as Knapp points out, there are two parts to the price equation — not just supply, but also demand.

Click the media player above to hear Dr. Gunnar Knapp in conversation with Marketplace Morning Report host David Brancaccio.

Walmart draws criticism for its new dress code

Fri, 2014-09-12 02:00

Walmart is introducing a new dress code for its employees, but they’re not calling it a uniform. And that’s got some Walmart employees riled up.

The retailer says customers are having a hard time figuring out who works at the store, so it’s put in place a dress code. Employees have to wear black or khaki pants and a blue or white collared shirt.

Judith Conti of the National Employment Law Project, a nonprofit that advocates for low-wage workers, says employees are upset about this because they have to pay for the clothes.

“Walmart employees are among the lowest paid in the entire country,” Conti says. “And Walmart is asking them to buy new clothes to wear at work.”

Walmart didn’t respond to an interview request, but it has said that most of the feedback about the dress code has been positive.

Reuel Schiller, a professor at UC Hastings Law School, said it’s significant that Walmart isn’t calling this a uniform.

“There’s a legal difference between a uniform and a dress code,” says Schiller. If the cost of the uniform will actually pull your wages below minimum wage for the week that you bought it, then under federal law that’s illegal.  

Schiller said Walmart skirts the issue — and passes on costs — by going with a dress code.

Silicon Tally: Get on the Google bus

Fri, 2014-09-12 02:00

It's time for Silicon Tally! How well have you kept up with the week in tech news?

This week, we're joined by Marketplace reporter Queena Kim in the heart of Silicon Valley.

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Let's inflate like it's 1989

Fri, 2014-09-12 01:30

As Marketplace celebrates its 25th birthday this year, we are looking at the weird, delightful and destructive ways that prices have changed during that quarter century.

For instance, I noticed that the real price of electricity is essentially the same as it was in 1989, adjusted for inflation. In fact, electricity costs the same as it did in 1960, when I was born, adjusting for inflation. Prescription drugs, however, are a different story. The examples we're looking at for the Marketplace Inflation Calculator all have a unique story about how prices have changed since our show got started 25 years ago.

But before our series gets to those, let's get a snapshot on what inflation is, exactly.

Greg Mankiw is chairman of the economics department at Harvard, and if his name sounds familiar it might be because it's on the front of your macroeconomics textbook from college. 

Click the media player above to hear Dr. Greg Mankiw in conversation with Marketplace Morning Report host David Brancaccio.

 

Twitter taps the bond market

Thu, 2014-09-11 13:41

This week, Twitter announced its plan to raise at least $1.3 billion by issuing convertible bonds. Unlike some companies that turn to the debt markets, the company doesn’t appear to be in dire need of cash. So what is their grand strategy?

“I don’t think it’s so much ‘What is the big strategy?’ I think the question many people will be asking is: ‘Is there a really meaningful strategy?’” says Nate Elliott, vice president at Forrester Research. He points out that Twitter’s user base, while large, is still closer to Google+ than Facebook, and the company is not yet profitable.

“If Twitter’s revenues matched its notoriety, it’d be doing just fine,” Elliott says.

But bond market investors are not in a skeptical mood, says David Krause, finance professor at Marquette University. “Companies are raising record amounts of debt right now.” 

The primary reason: With near-zero interest rates, other options are slim pickings — a rather unhappy economic indicator. “It’s the result of an economy that is still struggling, and it’s also due to what we’re seeing globally,” says Brian Rehling, chief fixed income strategist at Wells Fargo Advisors. “We’re seeing very weak if not negative growth over in Europe."

On the positive side, the drive to issue debt now may be motivated by a belief that the macroeconomic picture is going to change. “I think there is a sense from some that this is not going to last,” says Rehling.

“It’s a very opportune time for companies that may not be investment grade to be able to go out and lock in some long-term money at some very attractive rates,” says Krause.

Krause thinks Twitter’s offering will be very attractive to investors.

Even if all it buys Twitter in the short term is more time.

Goodbye, handshake. Hello, fist bump!

Thu, 2014-09-11 13:41

You know how people have started sneezing and coughing into their elbows instead of their hands, because public health people convinced us that would reduce the spread of germs?

im loving how its finally cold BUT I DON'T LIKE HOW EVERYONE IS SPREADING THEIR GERMS. LIKE ITS NOT HARD TO SNEEZE INTO YOUR ELBOW.

— Kate Eslit (@kate_eslit) September 11, 2014

Well, turns out elbows aren't helping all that much. A study in the American Journal of Infection Control compared handshakes to fist bumps to high fives as transmission mechanisms: Turns out we'd all be a lot healthier if there was more fist-bumping.

Why the SEC is all about 'broken windows'

Thu, 2014-09-11 13:41

The Securities and Exchange Commission announced Wednesday that it had charged 34 people and companies for failing to file timely disclosures about their dealings in company stock.

Nearly all the cases settled for fines of up to $150,000.

While the SEC says these charges represent important violations on their own, they’re also part of a larger "broken windows" strategy of enforcement, modeled after a policing theory first coined in the 1980s. The idea is that if you clamp down on little infractions, you're more likely to deter big-time crime.

“Focusing on these violations does keep people on notice that we are going to bring action in connection with violations big and small,” says Andrew Ceresney, the director of enforcement at the SEC. “It does create heightened focus and attention to compliance more generally."

He says the SEC has developed digital tools to allow it to go after these smaller cases without distracting it from bigger ones.  

“It’s an interesting experiment,” says John Coffee, a professor and director of the Center on Corporate Governance at Columbia University Law School.

By enforcing filing deadlines Coffee believes the SEC might head off larger problems, where company officials trade on stock before releasing good or bad company news.

“By forcing stricter disclosure, I think, in turn, you’re going to reduce the prospect of insiders exploiting material nonpublic information,” he explains.

The strategy is part of a wider effort to rehabilitate the SEC's reputation. Tom Gorman, a partner with the law firm Dorsey & Whitney, says the agency was once highly respected for its enforcement abilities. But its image has suffered due to its failure to prevent the Madoff and Stanford Ponzi schemes, and because of the public’s perception that the agency hasn’t netted a big fish in the wake of the financial crisis.

“It’s started to come back, but it still has a long way to go to get back to the days when it was really the most respected enforcement program in town,” says Gorman. “They haven’t really brought, recently, a huge financial fraud case, but they’ve brought some. It’s those kind of cases that are going to build their reputation to what they want it to be.”

Wednesday’s settlements might cause some companies to look at their compliance policies, says Michael Rivera, the chair of the Securities Enforcement and Compliance Practice at Venable LLP. But he doubts they will deter bigger criminals.

“The individuals that are going to engage in massive frauds, I don’t think, are too worried about these smaller cases,” he says. “The real way for the SEC to deter major frauds like that is to go after those major frauds.”

He also notes that these small wins will help the agency report higher numbers of successful actions.

However, the SEC stresses it’s important for the agency to feel omnipresent. Announcing the broken windows approach last October, SEC Chair Mary Jo White said, “Investors in our markets want to know that there is a strong cop on the beat — not just someone sitting in the station house waiting for a call, but patrolling the streets and checking on things.”

The NFL's power extends beyond the game

Thu, 2014-09-11 13:41

This year’s Super Bowl XLVIII was the most-watched event on U.S. television ever, attracting more than 111 million viewers. Its nearest competition? Other Super Bowls.

If a brand wants to play with the big boys in sports, it pretty much has to play with the NFL.

“The NFL stands out in all of the different revenue sources, and not just by a little bit, but by leaps and bounds over the other sports,” says Smith College economist Andrew Zimbalist.

Those NFL revenue streams — from ticket sales, sports stadiums, TV rights, Super Bowl ads, and a lot of merchandising — bring in more than $9 billion annually to the league and team owners. Players endorsing shoes and credit cards generates more revenue, and also generates sales for sporting goods and apparel companies like Nike. Fantasy football betting is taking off, as well.

But the sport is now facing multiple controversies: former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice’s assault on his then-fiancée and how much NFL officials knew about it, last year's bullying scandal and concussions and their consequences.

Zimbalist doesn't see these problems undermining the NFL’s reputational value to sponsoring brands like Gatorade, Marriott or FedEx.

“Because [football] is the most popular spectator sport in the United States, it derives a certain amount of insulation from some of the social criticisms that it receives,” Zimbalist says.

Football’s popularity, especially as a spectator sport, can seem mysterious. The ball is only in play for about 20 minutes of the over-three-hour broadcast.

Jonathan Taplin at the USC Annenberg Innovation Lab says even with the short ball-in-play time, the violence of football appeals to a desirable prime-age male demographic.

The pacing is ideal for broadcast, too.

“Football is actually a perfect collective viewing experience,” Taplin says, “because it’s actually the time between the plays when people can discuss things, get a beer, go over to the guacamole. A basketball game is so intense, if you’re in a room with a bunch of people and someone’s talking, they’ll shout ‘shut up and watch the game.’”

Taplin points out that all the major spectator sports are good for TV networks because fans want to watch in real time, rather than using a DVR and watching later — without the ads. Fans want to know how their team did, and how it affects their chances of making it into postseason play. Pro football teams only play 16 regular-season games, compared to about 80 in basketball or hockey and 162 in baseball. Marketers like that, Taplin says, because football fans form a mass market that’s heavily concentrated in fall weekend time slots.

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