Remember a few weeks ago when the NFL was considering fewer commercial breaks during games in order to stop the rot of losing scores of viewers for their games this season?
Well, like we warned you a few weeks ago, when it comes to the NFL don’t count on them making any decision that will make them less money. Nearly everything the league does is driven by its quest to make more revenue for Roger Goodell and the 32 owners.
In a new report about the NFL’s longer games and shorter ratings, John Ourand of SBJ lays out multiple avenues the NFL is pursuing to accomplish their goal of reversing both trends. Perhaps the headline takeaway is that fewer advertisements are pretty much a non-starter for the networks that are paying the league billions in television rights.
NFL executives publicly have said that they want to look into this, which makes sense given the volume of complaints about the frequency of stoppages during NFL games.
But this is the least likely idea to be enacted.
The NFL is looking into whether advertisers would pay more for the exclusivity of fewer ad breaks. When I asked a network ad sales executive if broadcasters could make as much revenue from fewer ads, I was greeted with laughter.
For the networks, this is a nonstarter. CBS, Fox and NBC each pay the NFL an average of more than $1 billion per year for NFL rights. ESPN shells out nearly $2 billion per year.
The networks depend on advertising to pay for these contracts, and each of the contracts spell out where they can take their ad breaks. The networks are not going to give those up — financially, they can’t give those up — unless the league accepts a lower rights fee.
And therein lies the problem with the dream scenario, someone is going to have to pay for it. And unless it’s the NFL who’s willing to give up rights fees dollars, it’s probably not going to happen.
So if fewer commercials are out the window, what are some other options? None sound as good or as impactful. Streamlining the replay process is one, but how many years have we heard about that without any movement whatsoever. There’s also the idea of shortening halftime from 12 minutes to 10 minutes, but I can’t imagine coaches and players will be too thrilled with that concept. That change would also mean Terry Bradshaw speeding through highlights at halftime would become even more unintelligible. Finally, there’s the thought of having the PA announcer call out penalties instead of the referee, which doesn’t make a lot of sense considering there would have to be time lost to communicate the calls back and forth to the press box.
One change that reportedly will be made? The elimination of the Breakfast at Wembley 9:30 AM ET kickoff. That would be a smart decision considering that over 14 hours of football in one day is probably beyond the maximum intake for anybody. Also, those early morning kickoffs have severely hurt the pregame show ratings this season. Maybe it’s a sign the NFL is finally wising up to the reality that they’re over-saturating the marketplace and sometimes less is more.