Fennelly: NFL to Take Measures to Reduce Dead Air During Games

NFL games have been dragging on unnecessarily for years now and the league is finally going todo something about it. Commissioner Roger Goodell released a memo to fans on Wednesday stating how he plans to shorten game broadcasts to enhance TV viewers’ experience.

“Consistently, we heard from fans that we can improve in two key areas: the flow and pace of the game, and commercialization and the number of unnecessary disruptions to the game on the field,” Goodell wrote. “Today, I want to tell you about some of the ways we are working to address that.”

“On the football side, there are a number of changes we are making to the mechanics and rules of the game to maintain excitement and also improve the consistency of our officiating.

“For example, next week clubs will vote on a change to centralize replay reviews. Instead of a fixed sideline monitor, we will bring a tablet to the Referee who can review the play in consultation with our officiating headquarters in New York, which has the final decision. This should improve consistency and accuracy of decisions and help speed up the process.

“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.

“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.”

How much actual time these measures will save during games is minimal. The average NFL game this days runs approximately three hours and eight minutes as opposed to three hours and two minutes in 2008. That’s just a six-minute swing, hardly a big change.

The average number of commercials per game in 2016 was 69, up from 64 in 2008. Over that period the average number of game stoppages (penalties, incompletions and replay reviews) have remained basically the same.

There is no way to cut down on those organic game stoppages. They happen. The networks can reduce the number of commercials, however. I don’t see that happening and I’m sure I’m not alone. No way they take money out of their own pockets.

With the stats showing that games have been running long for the past fifteen years, one has to ask why the league waited so long to institute these changes. The answer is simple. NFL ratings are down. Millennials are said to have shorter attention spans due their upbringing in the electronic age and football games move too slow for them. They prefer basketball, hockey and other sports that contain a consistent flow of action.

In my opinion, the game is fine. Sure it can be tightened up a bit but they are bending toward Gomorrah here by trying to accommodate the younger audience. They are the audience of the future. The NFL did not get to be the $13 billion behemoth by not catering to their fans.

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