SI Vault
August 19, 1968
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August 19, 1968


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Perhaps it was Mao Tse-tung's well-publicized swim, but whatever the incentive a group of men in Canton began practicing daily in a local pool. They progressed from 10 pool lengths nonstop to 20, to 50, and their swimming feats became the talk of the city. Eventually even the police got interested. Why swim so far, they wondered, when the Chinese have no Olympic team? Hmmm. Hmmm. Could it be that the men were training for the great swim out of China to Hong Kong, which is about 90 miles down the Pearl River?

That may seem a hasty conclusion—90 miles is equivalent to 2,899 laps in an Olympic-size pool—but the military is now patrolling swimming pools along the southern coast of China and discouraging marathon trainees. Perhaps jogging will be the next fad.


Broadcasting magazine has published its annual survey of what the industry pays for radio and TV coverage of football games. As usual, the figures are record-breaking—$38.9 million to the 26 professional teams, $15.8 million to 120 major colleges and a total of $54.7 million paid in all. But to put these figures in real perspective they should be compared with those of the past five years.

In 1963 the industry spent a total of $13.9 million, in 1964 $27.3 million, in 1965 $34.4 million, in 1966 $41.1 million and in 1967 $45.5 million. This year's increase to $54.7 million is therefore the largest in four years.

The cost of carrying NFL games has gone from $4.8 million in 1963 to $25.2 million. Similarly the NFL Championship was sold for $926,000 five years ago; this year it went for $2 million. NCAA football has gone from $5.1 million to $10.2 million. The Rose Bowl's value has risen spectacularly—from $125,000 to $1.2 million. And in the same period the AFL, which was in the process of establishing itself, has increased its annual packet from $1.9 million to $9 million.

To compensate for the added cost, the networks have raised the price of advertising—from $85 million in 1963 to $107 million in 1968. However, this is only a 26% increase compared with almost 300% for the broadcasting rights.

Is the spiral going to continue ever upward? Probably not. There is a feeling in television that the advertising dollar has been stretched to the maximum—how many sponsors can stand the $150,000-a-minute charge CBS demanded in the Super Bowl? And the viewer may have reached his saturation point. In one average midseason week in 1963 he could watch two games. This October he can tune in on at least four. In 1969, when new pro football contracts must be negotiated, there could well be a leveling off.


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