NFL pledges to cut down on commercial breaks to speed up games

Posted at 6:40 PM, Mar 22, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-22 18:40:51-04

The NFL made headlines last year for poor ratings during the regular season.

Even though they rebounded in the post season, the NFL has been vocal about the need to speed up games and change the structure of commercial breaks.

In a letter to fans on Wednesday, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell explained how those changes would take place.

The NFL plans to use a play clock after the extra point to get back to the action faster. It may also use a play clock after touchdowns. Another idea under consideration: standardizing the length of halftimes during all games to reduce downtime.

Cutting down on the number of commercials is unlikely to happen anytime soon: The NFL and its partner TV networks generate a ton of revenue from ad sales — Super Bowl LI ads cost about $5 million. But Goodell said the league is going to try to cut down on the frequency of commercial breaks so the action isn’t interrupted as much.

“We know how annoying it is when we come back from a commercial break, kick off, and then cut to a commercial again,” Goodell said. “I hate that too. Our goal is to eliminate it.”

He also said that during broadcasts, there’s going to be more emphasis on content that’s relevant to what’s happening on the field.

“All of these changes are meant to give you more of what you want: a competitive game with fewer interruptions and distractions from the action,” Goodell said.

Several factors affected the poor ratings seen last season — competition from the presidential campaign, poor match-ups and the number of weekly games.

Goodell publicly addressed the ratings slump in November when viewership was down 12%.

But he said the new changes are a response to fan feedback that the league has been gathering since before the 2016 season.

That’s how the league learned that fans were concerned about the pace of games, play stoppages and commercials.

The NFL is also considering changing how replays work to make them faster. Refs would be given a tablet and would be able to confer with the NFL’s officiating headquarters to come to a decision.

Owners are expected to rule on this proposed change during their annual meetings, which begin on Sunday.