NFL confirms plans to cut commercial breaks

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said the league aims to "meaningfully reduce" the amount of down time on the field in several ways, including reduced commercial breaks. Image: NFL

After months of hinting at reducing the ad load during NFL games, the league has confirmed it’s going to do something about it.

In a note to fans, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said the league is working with broadcasters to speed up the action and, in particular, to chop one of the most annoying commercial breaks in most NFL games.

“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,” Goodell wrote.

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Goodell also acknowledged that fans feel there are “too many elements in the broadcast that aren't relevant to the play on the field” and that the NFL and broadcasters will be “looking to instead focus on content that is most complementary and compelling to you—whether that is analysis, highlights or stories about our players.”

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The NFL has been in talks to reduce ad loads for months. At the NAB Show New York last November, NFL Network CEO Brian Rolapp talked about the league’s sagging ratings and ways it and its broadcast partners were looking to improve the experience for viewers.

“We have lots of ideas for improving viewership,” said Rolapp, detailing conversations the League is having with its broadcast partners about not just cutting out commercials, but also spreading them out differently.

In December, the NFL reportedly cut down the amount of ad breaks during a quarter. According to Ad Age, the NFL took the normal five ad breaks per quarter down to four but still carried the identical ad load, making the breaks longer.

The league began the trial during Week 16 games that aired during Christmas weekend. While a consistent ad load means the NFL won’t have to give up any ad revenue, the league was hoping to learn more about the structure of ad breaks as it relates to overall fan experience, according to the report.

Elsewhere in his letter, Goodell detailed other steps the NFL is taking to speed up play during games. The NFL is going to institute a play clock following the extra point when television does not take a break, and it’s considering instituting a play clock after a touchdown. The league is also proposing letting referees use a tablet on the field for replay reviews rather than having to use a fixed sideline monitor.