The NFL is apparently serious about doing *something* with the fact that commercials dominate their television broadcasts. But whether it’s a real solution or just moving the proverbial deck chairs around the Titanic remains to be seen.

Via Sports Business Journal, the NFL is ready to experiment with how they display the gluttony of commercials during their games during Week 16. The league will reportedly change the number of commercials played during a single break and also how many breaks there are in game action.

The NFL will experiment with the number of ads in TV breaks during Week 16 games, a sign the league is taking the decline in TV ratings seriously. The league is sending out a memo later today to clubs to inform them of the change. The changes are not expected to shrink ad times – except perhaps on the NFL Network Christmas Day game – but will alter how many ads are in a break, and how many breaks there are. The experiment could reveal whether fans would want fewer but longer breaks, or more frequent but shorter ad breaks, a league source said.

Basically, instead of seeing that classic touchdown-commercial-touchback-commercial sequence that is one of the most annoying things in sports, you might just see one really long commercial break after the touchdown and then get back to action with no second break after the touchback.

Would longer but shorter commercial breaks please football fans? Credit the NFL’s ingenuity in at least trying something, but it still doesn’t get to the root of the problem, which is the sheer mass tonnage of ads during a game. As long as the NFL is keeping ad times the same, we’re just talking about something that’s only cosmetic. Maybe there might be a few fans the NFL could trick with having fewer commercial breaks, but they might lose even more fans if folks at home have to sit through five minutes of non-stop commercials.

And this is the juxtaposition that the league is faced with – fans want fewer commercials, the league does not want less revenue. And the only way this could conceivably work is if the league agrees to give the networks paying it billions a break on those rights fees so the networks can then accept a downturn in advertising dollars for fewer commercials. The likelihood of all of that happening is not high to say the least, at least not anytime soon.

It’s a difficult situation for the league and its network partners. You can laugh all you want at soccer’s ratings compared to the NFL, but with a 90 minute game played within two hours, it speaks to younger fans because there are little-to-no breaks in action and zero commercials during the actual game. And in a world that lives on Netflix and the DVR, fans are more averse than ever to sitting through so many commercials.

The NFL can say that there are multiple things it can do to increase pace of play but until they address the real issue – commercials making up one-third of NFL telecasts – there won’t be a real solution.

[Sports Business Journal]

About Matt Yoder

Award winning sportswriter at The Comeback and Awful Announcing. The biggest cat in the whole wide world.

69 thoughts on “The NFL will change how commercial breaks work in Week 16

  1. A game that has approximately seven minutes worth of action, but takes three hours to show on commercial tv.
    TV runs the NFL, and has for decades. Time for peeps to find other things to do on Sunday afternoons.

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