After a season of lower ratings and new controversies, the NFL is making some changes in an effort to speed up the pace of games and address fans’ concerns. Among the things being considered are reducing the number of commercial breaks during broadcasts and tweaking play reviews and in-game timing.
Commissioner Roger Goodell wrote in an email addressed to NFL fans that the league is working with its broadcasting partners to reduce the time and frequency of commercial breaks during games. He told USA Today that, for example, the old routine of commercial break then kickoff then another commercial break — referred to as “double-ups” — “drives me crazy.” He added in the email, “Our goal is to eliminate it.”
He told the paper that the NFL moving to eliminate some scheduled TV ad breaks, would be increased from 1 minute, 50 seconds to 2:20 to accommodate the new format. He said league research shows that viewers notice fewer breaks but not their length. Goodell added that the goal is not to shorten games but to speed them up.
The league will unveil its plans in the coming days, but some of the proposed changes would have to be approved by NFL owners. They will review the plans at the annual league meeting in Phoenix, which starts Sunday.
Goodell also told USA Today that the league will begin hiring some of the 17 full-time officials permitted under its labor deal and expects that the Competition Committee “will be loosening up the celebration rules to allow the players a little more expression of their enthusiasm.”
More details will be announced this afternoon on the league-owned NFL Network.
Among the topics Goodell touched on in his email:
Clubs will vote on a change to centralize replay reviews. Instead of a fixed sideline monitor, we will bring a tablet to the referee who can review the play in consultation with our officiating headquarters in New York, which has the final decision. This should improve consistency and accuracy of decisions and help speed up the process.
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.