The many NFL fans out there who hate the commercial-kickoff-commercial sequence have some support from an unusual source; Commissioner Roger Goodell. Goodell released a letter to fans Wednesday about the NFL’s plans to reduce commercials and speed up the pace of play, and also spoke with USA Today‘s Tom Pelissero about forthcoming changes. He told Pelissero the commercial-kickoff-commercial sequence, long one of the biggest complaints for many, particularly grates on his nerves as well:
Every NFL fan has seen an exciting game disrupted in a familiar way: a commercial break, then a kickoff, then … another commercial break.
Commissioner Roger Goodell doesn’t like it, either.
“It drives me crazy,” Goodell told USA TODAY Sports on Wednesday. “We call those ‘double-ups.’ They actually occurred 27% of the time (on kickoffs last season). And that’s still too high for us.”
Goodell went off on those double-ups in his letter, too:
Together with our broadcast partners, we will be working to meaningfully reduce down time and the frequency of commercial breaks in our game. 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.
As mentioned there, it’s not just those particular commercial sequences that will be changing. The league’s also going to be altering commercial breaks in general, going to four breaks per quarter (from five, six, five and five) but making those breaks two minutes and 20 seconds each rather than one minute and 50 seconds. Thus, there will be 2,240 seconds, or 37 minutes and 20 seconds, of standard commercials under the new plan, versus 2,310 seconds, or 38 minutes and 30 seconds, under the old plan. Some of these ideas were experimented with during Week 16 last year, and they’re also based on fan feedback (and biofeedback research) conducted during the past season.
There will be other tweaks to commercials, too. Networks can go to break during replay reviews, and there’s potential for a break sponsored by one advertiser (similar to what Turner’s been doing with the NBA) or for a double-box showing a commercial in one box and what’s going on in the stadium in the other (similar to what Fox has done with racing, college football and some other broadcasts). And there may be other kinds of sponsored content, although hopefully those will go a bit better than ESPN’s Surface ad last year.
Beyond that, Goodell’s letter talks about speeding up the game and improving its flow in other areas. Some of the ones he mentions are bringing in a play clock after an extra point if there’s no TV break, contemplating doing the same after a touchdown, bringing a tablet to the referee for reviews instead of having him go to a sideline monitor, standardizing starting the clock after an out-of-bounds play, and standardizing halftime length. All of those could have an impact as well.
It’s the advertising changes that seem the most relevant to viewers, though, and they may make for a much different viewing experience next season. At the very least, it sounds like the commercial-kickoff-commercial segues may be considerably reduced, especially given the way Goodell has publicly criticized them here. We’ll see if that helps NFL ratings rebound.