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NFL embraces streamlined commercial breaks to further ratings momentum

Thomas Barrabi

The National Football League is aiming to streamline its commercial breaks as it looks to build on recent improvements in its television ratings entering the 2019 season.

After back-to-back ratings declines during the 2016 and 2017 seasons, the NFL reduced its number of commercial breaks per quarter and cut down on game stoppages to keep viewers engaged. The NFL’s television audience rebounded in 2018, as average game viewership increased five percent to 15.8 million.

This season, NFL broadcasts are expected to feature more “double box” segments in which commercials air alongside in-game footage, NFL chief media and business officer Brian Rolapp told The Drum.

“We're really challenging our broadcast partners and our advertisers to give us more ideas,” said Rolapp. “If our broadcasters aren't comfortable, let’s use the NFL Network’s eight games to try it out. We're really open to new ideas because the landscape is changing so much.”

NFL games accounted from 46 of the top 50 most-watched telecasts during the 2019 regular season airing across the league's many media partners. The league also saw growth on digital platforms, as viewership of Amazon Prime’s streaming broadcast of “Thursday Night Football” rose 86 percent compared to 2017.

While a faster pace of play has cut down on broadcast times, the NFL’s bounce-back ratings performance coincided with a record-setting season for offenses. NFL teams scored an unprecedented 1,371 touchdowns during the regular season.

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Aside from its efforts on traditional television, the NFL has taken steps to improve its digital outreach. The league has a live content partnership with Twitter and partnered with the Pluto TV streaming service this offseason to launch the NFL Channel, which features an array of programming such as old episodes of HBO’s “Hard Knocks” series and season recaps.

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