NFL Loosens Social Media Policy, Announces Fewer Commercial Breaks for Week 16



With ratings down for the 2016 season, the NFL is testing new methods for keeping viewers tuned in and engaged.

In an effort to speed up games and keep viewers engaged, the NFL is testing out a new ad structure for Week 16 games beginning Dec. 22. The league has concurrently released a more lax social media policy for teams.

Advertising Age reports that the league will run a one-week test in which they drop the number of commercial breaks to four per quarter (currently, that number is five). Here’s the catch: The total duration of advertising time will stay the same, meaning there will be fewer – albeit longer – breaks in gameplay.

The test is designed to help the NFL understand if viewers’ real issue is with the frequency of the commercial breaks, or with the total duration of time devoted to them during a typical broadcast.

In parallel with this announcement, the NFL released a memo on Dec. 16 in which teams were given new permissions with regard to the way they engage fans around game activity. Here are a few actions teams can now take:

  • Posting content on Snapchat during the game (up to five total snaps)
  • Capturing and posting GIFs of “ancillary content” (e.g. celebrations and reactions)
  • Broadcasting one pregame live-stream (via Periscope or Facebook Live)
  • Sharing post-game media in-the-moment (previously, teams abided to a 60-minute moratorium)

NFL rankings have been down this season, although reports indicate a slight uptick since the U.S. Presidential Election in November. Some fans have blamed excessive commercial breaks that slow down the pace of play and drag games out longer than they need to be.

In 2014, a pie chart visualizing an average NFL game broadcast went viral. As it turns out, the average broadcast features more than 60 minutes of commercials. A similar amount of time was devoted to players, well, “standing around.” This breakdown was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.

This test is indicative of the NFL’s desire to adapt its format for viewers who are demonstrating shorter attention spans and more digital media-viewing habits. Last April, the league announced a partnership with Twitter in which ten games would be broadcast live on the platform.

Still, viewers are overwhelming watching the action on TV. Twitter reported viewing numbers of approximately 300,000 as compared to the tens of millions who tune in via television.

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