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NFL making changes to shorten games, cut down on commercials in 2017

(Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

DETROIT – NFL ratings were down in 2016 and the league is looking to make some changes to fix it.

USA Today reports that the NFL is looking at rolling out a plan to shorten games by limiting commercials and changing the game clock.

“We have seen commercialization maybe creep into the game in areas that we don’t think is appropriate,” Goodell said, “and we’re going to work with our network partners to try to pull that back, to make sure that we can create that compelling experience for our fans.”

In a letter to fans, Goodell announced other planned changed, including:

  • Running the play clock after PATs
  • Standardizing when the clock starts after a player runs out of bounds
  • Standardizing halftime length

The NFL will also consider running all replay reviews from a centralized location.

“What we’re looking to do is take that down time out, which is not entertaining,” Goodell said. “And in our research, we had biofeedback, so we could see what they were watching and you could tell when they’re not as interested in what’s happening in the broadcast.

Here's the letter from the NFL:

Dear Fans,

Here at the NFL, we have a relentless drive to improve—particularly when it comes to the way fans experience our game.

In order to understand how we might deliver a better and more exciting entertainment experience for you, we embarked on a specific project before the start of the 2016 season to gather feedback about the in-stadium and live NFL game viewing 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.

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.

We also know that you feel there are too many elements in the broadcast that aren't relevant to the play on the field. With our partners, we 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.

All of these changes are meant to give you more of what you want: a competitive game with fewer interruptions and distractions from the action.

There is much more work to do in the coming seasons as we continue to listen and learn. But these positive changes are intended to create a better experience for you, our fans.

We hope that you will continue to give us feedback on how we can improve.

Thank you for all that you do for our players, our teams and our game.


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