While sports like baseball are constantly looking for ways to speed up the game, including eliminating four-pitch intentional walks and instituting pitch clocks, the NFL always seemed content to have their television broadcasts bogged down by a million commercials, time outs, injury breaks, replays, official instant replay reviews, and other moments where the players don’t actually play football.
Things may finally be changing for the better, though.
League commissioner Roger Goodell said on Wednesday that the league is working with their broadcast partners to cut down on the number of commercials during an average NFL game.
“Together with our broadcast partners, we will be working to meaningfully reduce down time and the frequency of commercial breaks in our game,” Goodell claimed in an open letter to NFL fans. “We will also be giving our broadcast partners increased flexibility to avoid untimely breaks in the action. For example, we know how annoying it is when we come back from a commercial break, kick off, and then cut to a commercial again. I hate that too. Our goal is to eliminate it.”
Thank you! There are more than enough stoppages in play already in the average football game. After a kickoff (which now mostly just results in a touchback), teams should have the usual 40 seconds to trot out their offense and get down to business.
The flip of this, though, is that the networks and cable channels who pay billions (with a B!) of dollars to broadcast NFL games need to recoup that money through commercials, so they likely won’t ax a single minute of advertising unless they absolutely have it. In other words, they won’t be doing it voluntarily or just because Goodell asks really, really nice.
One of the ways that the NFL could force their hand is to make small changes in their rulebook. Goodell mentioned a couple:
Regarding game timing, we’re going to institute a play clock following the extra point when television does not take a break, and we’re considering instituting a play clock after a touchdown. We’re also going to standardize the starting of the clock after a runner goes out-of-bounds, and standardize halftime lengths in all games, so we return to the action as quickly as possible. Those are just a few of the elements we are working on to improve the pace of our game.
The league is also looking into sending all instant replay reviews to a centralized head office, rather than have the in-game refs duck under the camera hood to watch different angles of a questionable call.
Anything that lets us watch more football and less commercials seems like a good idea to us!