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NFL looking at ways to reduce downtime during TV broadcasts

The TV contracts expire in 2022, and the NFL wants to make sure they can be ready to max it out again.

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NFL owners will be meeting next week in Arizona in the largest owners’ meeting of the offseason. They meet regularly during the year, but the late March meetings are big for voting on rules and preparing for the coming season.

One issue the NFL appears set to address is the downtime for viewers during games. Commissioner Roger Goodell spoke with USA Today, and acknowledged the annoyance of seeing a team score, follow that with a commercial, have the kickoff, and then follow that with another commercial.

This will involve discussions with the league’s TV partners, which means he could not get into too many details. One thing he mentioned was creating a uniform set of four commercial breaks per period, and making each one a little longer (from 1:50 to 2:20). They might also include an option where a double box would appear allowing viewers at home to see what is going on inside the stadium. It’s not a perfect solution, but it’s an acknowledgement of the issue.

Goodell released a letter to fans in which he discussed some of the things that might change. Part of it involved offering more standardization of clocks during breaks in action.

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. Those are just a few of the elements we are working on to improve the pace of our game.

I am generally inclined to continue watching Red Zone over regular NFL broadcasts, but obviously this would be something for when I’m specifically watching 49ers games. I don’t know the specific numbers on Red Zone channel viewership vs. regular broadcast viewership. My guess is Red Zone is still a significant minority of viewers, but it still provides something that can draw fans away from normal broadcasts, and in turn impact the bottom line down the road.

The NFL’s current television contracts expire in 2022, so things like this are clearly being considered in light of that.