Will NFL Ad Changes Reverse Falling Ratings? – Variety

As TV-network upfront presentations wrap up today in New York, the NFL is readying new tactics against an unfamiliar opponent — ratings decline.

In March, league commissioner Roger Goodell announced several on-field and broadcast changes designed to improve, as he put it in an open letter to football fans, “the flow and pace of the game.” Among the steps the league would take were adjustments to the length and frequency of commercial breaks.

“We know how annoying it is when we come back from a commercial break, kick off, and then cut to a commercial again,” Goodell wrote. “I hate that too.”

Getting rid of what Goodell calls the “double-up” is just one experiment the league will engage in this fall after watching Nielsen-measured average viewership decline 8% in 2016 from the previous season. That decline was part of a broader ratings downturn for live sports, one that also affected the NBA, NASCAR and Major League Baseball. If the NFL’s ad changes can help reverse its ratings course, other leagues will take note — and broadcast partners who had to be sold on the new strategy will be assuaged.

Next season will see the standard number of ad breaks in an NFL game reduced to four a quarter from five or six. To compensate, the length of breaks will increase from one minute, 50 seconds to two minutes, 20 seconds. The league also plans to reduce the number of in-game sponsor shout-outs, and introduce a format that will show screen-in-screen footage from inside the stadium while a commercial plays.

Those changes could not have been made without the assent of the league’s TV partners — including CBS, ESPN, Fox and NBC. Those networks each pay nine to 10 figures per season to broadcast NFL games. They do so because the

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