- Ron Schwane/AP
In the latest sign that the NFL is still concerned with this season’s rating decline, the league will reportedly experiment with the format of its commercial breaks during Week 16.
On Wednesday, Sports Business Journal reported that the league is going to play around with various formats of how the commercial breaks are structured, though the total amount of ads shown during a given game will not change.
“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.It is uncertain if all NFL broadcasters will be part of the effort, or just a few of them. This part of an overall effort unfolding at the league that will look at the pace of the game, both on-field and in broadcast presentation.”
The excessive commercial breaks peppered throughout football games is often cited as a reason why fewer people are tuning into the NFL this season – the viewing experience has become a slog, particularly the touchdown-commercial-extra point-commercial-kickoff-commercial routine.
But it’s hard to really know whether these experiments will really have any impact on TV ratings. Will fewer commercial breaks, but with longer ads, make fans happier, or just more annoyed? Would fans prefer to sit through five minutes of commercials?
So long as the total number of commercials doesn’t change, it’s hard to believe the ratings will:
— Amir Nasr (@amir_anasr) November 30, 2016
And herein lies the paradox the NFL faces right now: the NFL doesn’t want to lose revenue, but fans want fewer commercials.
If nothing else, news of the commercial experiments show once more that the NFL is working hard to combat the ratings problem and modernize its product. The irony, of course, is that the only marked solution we’ve seen thus far is the simplest of all: better games.