The folks over at CollegeMarching.com sat down with an ESPN rep to find out why they don’t show the halftime show of marching bands during college football games.
They were able to determine that the question has both an easy and a hard answer:
The easy answer:
ESPN doesn’t have the rights to distribute the music that is performed.
The individual bands have usually secured rights to perform (distribute) the music, but the networks haven’t.
The more involved answer:
“ESPN is allowed to use what is called ambient noise at the game. So when the band plays something after 3rd down like Seven Nation Army, that is considered ambient noise in the game. Or if you hear a pop song play at the game through the stadium speakers and it can be heard on the game broadcast that is also considered ambient noise. The marching bands actually pay for the rights to the music that they play at halftime.”
It makes sense, but it also brings up another line of thought: If ESPN makes a ton of money (which they do), why couldn’t they also secure the rights to the music performed at halftime show? Is it worth it to the audience? The advertisers? Questions that will likely go unanswered for the time being.
So does ESPN just totally snuff the bands? Not at all, if you’ve been paying attention to their twitter feeds you’ll see these really cool quick motion videos with ESPN’s own generic audio dubbed over the band. This protects them from being sued by music gatekeepers, but still provides a cool visual of the band in action:
Penn State Band performs cool halftime show honoring U.S. Military. http://t.co/OUfEDhcA3D
— ESPN CollegeFootball (@ESPNCFB) October 3, 2015
If you want to read more about this in detail, CollegeMarching.com has some great information on this: https://www.collegemarching.com/content/why-doesnt-espn-show-the-halftime-shows