The NFL has been on an emotional roller coaster this season, with regards to viewership.
Panic laced the first chunk of the season, as the NFL saw primetime viewership crater by double-digits, relative to last year. The league blamed the presidential election, but also admitted that it could do more to improve its product. One of the big factors mentioned by commissioner Roger Goodell was how full of advertisements the games had become.
When the election finally finished, ratings recovered a lot of the ground they’d lost — though they have still been down slightly. So now that the sky isn’t falling, it’s a good time to look back at ads, and see the problem Goodell was talking about.
“We want to take as much what we call dead time, non-action, out of the game, so that we can make the game more exciting,” Goodell said in November, according to The New York Times.
“In a world where Netflix has no commercials and consumers are used to 15 seconds of pre-roll, is there a better way to do commercials with our broadcast partners?” NFL exec Brian
Rolapp asked rhetorically, in an interview around the same time with Broadcasting & Cable. He pointed out that running 70 per game might be a turn off.
Does the NFL actually run 70 ads per game? Yes! But it hasn’t always been that way.
Here’s a recent chart put together by UBS that shows how the commercials per game in the NFL has changed since 2008:
The number of commercials per game has been steadily rising, even as people are, as Rolapp pointed out, becoming more accustomed to streaming services that offer either no ads (like Netflix and Amazon) or comparatively light ads (like Hulu).
If the NFL doesn’t want to alienate the next generation, it might be wise for the league to rethink its dense ad load. The good news is it seems that NFL execs are at least acknowledging it could be a problem.