WASHINGTON, March 20, 2014–Pull out those bracket cards and hot wings because the NCAA men’s division one tournament continues today. If last year’s ratings are any indication of the tournament’s popularity, CBS and Turner Broadcasting should earn a hefty sum in advertising dollars on the way to determining this year’s winner of the Big Dance.
Need proof of how important this is? The President of the United States himself has developed his own “Barack-atology,” according to fair-and-balanced MSNBC. Their online website reports that “Obama revealed his March Madness picks on ESPN Wednesday, predicting the Michigan State University Spartans will take the 2014 championship title against fellow fourth seed Louisville in the final game.”
There you have it. All we need is a new executive order to make this outcome a lock. After all, the Big Dance is clearly more crucial to our national interest than stupid old Crimea, right?
For most individuals, “March Madness” is loosely defined as the national fan obsession with the tournament. But for those in charge at the average factory, workplace or cube farm, it means a frustrating and often futile attempt to keep their staff focused on the duties of their jobs. With live streaming feeds and a variety of apps designed to allow fans to keep up with their favorite teams, the battle to keep workers from tuning in is more difficult than ever.
Encouraged by all these multiple means of access, in 2013 the NCAA tournament’s first week earned its highest television rating in 15 years, a 27% increase from the year before. Who knows what kind of stratospheric numbers this year’s tourney will hit?
Yet the biggest business story beyond who will actually win may be that loss of office productivity that inevitably occurs during the play offs. As in “what office productivity?”
From sea to shining sea, corporate networks will be brought to their collective knees by goldbricking employees happily streaming all those day games instead of crunching dismal sales figures, comfortable in the knowledge that, for the most part, their corporate betters will not complain too loudly about all that lost productivity and profit.
Indeed, no fat cat who’s been comfortably ensconced in that 1% income bracket since 2008 wants to do anything to make the other 99% really mad. Banning or blocking those day games or forbidding office pool action during business hours might finally be enough to motivate Joe and Josephine Sixpack and/or their dwindling middle class counterparts to roll out those mothballed guillotines and make like Robespierre.
Most upper management is likely resigned to 0.5 % bonus cuts this year anyway as a result of March Madness coupled with the last four months during which most people across America have been enduring the settled science of global cooling. Not to mention heating bills far higher than the monthly mortgage payment. So in the end, discretion will likely prove the better part of valor for our 21st century robber barons. They will mostly look the other way.
After all, those March Madness viewing and betting stats are nothing short of amazing. Overwhelming, really. Who’s about to fight them? According to one study, 50 million Americans will participate in these aforementioned office pools, and companies stand to lose a collective $1.2 billion for every unproductive work hour during the first week of the tournament.
But let’s gain some perspective here. This is chicken feed compared to our current $400 million billion trillion national debt load. What, us worry?
When it comes March Madness, the only monetary problem we can really see here is that Congress has failed to develop a comprehensive plan to tax all those office pool jackpots across the country. (But you can bet that they’re working on it!)
Anyway, here’s three cheers for CBS and Turner Broadcasting for airing those day games and giving workers a chance to be Breaking Bad and freeing a tiny bit of the Sons of Anarchy gene expression that resides in all of us red-blooded American sports fans.
For those who prefer their anarchy with a good dose of gore, the popular History Channel series “Vikings” continues its bloody second season with rock solid ratings. “Vikings” ended its first season with 3.6 million viewers, a number it matched with the recent premiere of season two. This makes “Vikings” one of cable’s top programs overall, finishing behind only “The Walking Dead” and “American Horror Story: Coven” among all cable dramas this year. Better yet, it beats “reality TV” hands down.
“Vikings” airs at 10 p.m. on History Channel.
But what’s a viewer to do if he or she doesn’t like swashbuckling hoopsters or marauding Norsemen? For a good dose of much-needed quirkiness, the obvious viewer choice is “Portlandia.” Tonight Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein are joined by guest stars Jello Biafra (Dead Kennedys), Annie Clark, Jeff Goldblum, Chloë Sevigny, and Duff McKagan.
For those not in the know, “Portlandia” is based on the premise that the city of Portland is king of the hill when it comes to embracing alternative lifestyles and world views. Tonight’s episode happily embraces this premise with a skit about tailgating at a live version of “Prairie Home Companion.”
If you’ve ever visited Portland, you’ll understand. On any other program this premise would be too ridiculous to imagine. But for the offbeat “Portlandia,” it fits right in.
“Portlandia” airs at 10 p.m. on IFC.