(Yahoo Sports) – Tod Leiweke, former Seahawks president, and current NFL COO, recently told the GeekWire Sports Tech Conference in Seattle that the league has been trying to “replicate the game experience” in fans’ living rooms, observing what sections of the screen draw fans’ eyes and what fans do during commercial breaks. (One hopes the study stops at the bathroom door.) The results of this study will be absolutely no surprise to anyone who has ever watched an NFL game: there are too many commercials, especially the dreaded extra point-ad-kickoff-ad block. It’s a key reason why younger viewers are either switching to streaming options or switching off the game entirely.
“They want a pace of play that doesn’t involve us chopping things up,” Leiweke said. “You’re going to see, next (season) [the NFL] really working hard to tighten up that game presentation and present the game with more of that pace.”
Woah, woah, woah. Don’t blame this all on millennials. My 60-year-old stepdad flips an absolute shit everytime the NFL does their patented PAT-commercial break-kickoff-commercial break trick. Without fail he’ll yell at the TV. Might actually miss that once I bask in the bliss that is one break after a touchdown. I’m sure that people my age are switching from the live game to Redzone, especially later in the season once their team has shot themselves in the foot too many times to count. But older viewers are just as much to blame. We, the people, have spoken!
While the “attention-deprived millennials need a constant stream of content” angle is both condescending and inaccurate (literally nobody likes choppy commercial blocks), it’s a good barometer for how the NFL can measure dissatisfaction with its product, and make changes. As a result, the NFL plans to go from five commercial “pods” per quarter to four, meaning more action (and, yes, more ads strung together).
One interesting tidbit: the days of refs going “under the hood” could be coming to an end. Leiweke indicated that referees will be provided with Surface tablets to review penalties, rather than having to go to a specific location and huddle in the equivalent of a boardwalk instant photo booth.
The concept of grouping into four pods makes more sense. For those who have ever wondered why the post-kickoff-break happens, it’s basically because the network has oh-so-many breaks and ads they need to play and they use after kickoffs in the latter half of quarters to fill that quota. That’s why you’ll sometimes hear the announcer say something like this in the 4th quarter: “We’ll take one final break and then we’re with you for the rest of the way.” They say that because they’ve hit that quota. And it now means there would need to be four breaks, albeit just a bit longer, instead of five. Sure they’ll have the same number of total ads meaning the breaks are going to longer. But if the Netflix/Hulu model has proven anything for viewers, little to no commercial breaks are positive in everybody’s book.Follow @geordo9