There are a lot of significantly dumb things about the NFL, like not taking care of their former players that have significant health problems after playing. There are also minor stupid things, like games taking forever due to the interminable number of commercial breaks and stoppages.
The NFL has decided to take a swing at fixing one of those minor things, but one that many fans are indeed annoyed by, as announced by Roger Goodell on Wednesday. The league has discussed the issue of commercial breaks bookending around a kickoff — so, a commercial break, kickoff, commercial break — with its broadcast partners and has encouraged broadcasters to eliminate that from games.
“Together with our broadcast partners, we will be working to meaningfully reduce down time and the frequency of commercial breaks in our game,” wrote Goodell. “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.”
This is a legitimately good idea. It’s extremely annoying to watch a team score, go through 2:30 of commercials to see a kickoff and then 2:30 of more commercials, especially now that kickoffs so often end up in touchbacks. However, I’m interested to see how this gets dealt with by broadcast networks.
Goodell has done a masterful job of putting any blame from now on onto the networks for any ridiculous commercial break sandwiching. There isn’t a mandate here from the league not to do it, but just a public notification that they have given the networks the ability to avoid those breaks, should they choose to. I’m sure the networks are less than thrilled by this public pressure, as they now will likely try and do away with that practice. Instead, they’ll have to figure out a way to squeeze that ad time into the game elsewhere (because there’s no way they’re losing any revenue to cut back on breaks).
There were other changes Goodell mentioned in his letter to fans. He noted that the league’s teams will vote on whether to centralize instant replay (like in college football or the NBA) to speed up that process, which currently requires the head official to run over to a booth and conduct the review, and improve the consistency of calls on replay.
He also outlined some clock changes that will hopefully speed up play.
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.
These are also good ideas. Speeding up the pace of play is something that all sports are trying to do in this day and age, and these are all good steps in doing that by the NFL. Now that you’ve tweaked clocks, replay and commercial breaks, how about you go out there and offer healthcare to your former players.