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Athletes and fans lose to commerce: duels until after midnight are here to stay

Roland Garros signed a contract with Amazon last year. The American streaming service pays tens of millions and stipulates that ten games are played late in the evening, when the average American just comes home from work.

In the modern, commercially driven world of sports, the match between Nadal and Djokovic is no exception. Tennis player Alexander Zverev complained earlier this month after he had been on the court until 4.54 am in Acapulco, Mexico.

And in other sports too, athletes, spectators, volunteers and other attendees have to go to bed at unfavorable times to serve the TV viewer. Just think of Formula 1 races in Asia that end late in the evening, but have a favorable time slot for European and American TV viewers. Or football matches that start at increasingly unpleasant times for stadium visitors.

‘Commerce determines when to play’

“It is true that it is getting crazier with the times when sports are taking place,” says Bob van Oosterhout, sports marketer at Triple Double. “There has been tension on this subject for years between commerce on the one hand and sporting interests on the other. The health and fitness of the players always come first, but commerce also determines when games are played.”

In Europe, people grumble when Nadal and Djokovic are on the track until after midnight, but in the United States commerce has even more power than here. “Look at the NBA: they always plan four top games there on Christmas Eve. You sit on the couch with your terrible mother-in-law and that crazy aunt and are happy that there is sports on TV,” says Van Oosterhout.

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“The same goes for American football on Thanksgiving. Both are very popular, tens of millions of people watch those days every year.”

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