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NFL may reduce ads to lure back TV viewers

Published Nov. 11, 2016

NEW YORK — NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said Thursday that the league is looking at ways to shorten TV game broadcasts, including trimming advertising, to keep the action moving.

The league has seen its television ratings plunge this season, something Goodell has said is related to a number of factors, including the intense interest in the presidential election and shifts in the way fans have been watching games.

Though ratings are down by double digits, Goodell said NFL ratings had risen 27 percent in the past decade even as ratings for prime-time television had fallen 36 percent. Speaking Thursday at the annual DealBook conference hosted by the New York Times, he called this year's decline "cyclical."

Goodell said, though, that the pace of games also could be a factor. Fans have complained for years that games are too long, and they frequently express annoyance at the number of commercial breaks and video reviews. Last season the average length of a regular-season game, from kickoff to final whistle, was 3 hours, 8 minutes, six minutes longer than in 2008.

Goodell said the league was considering ways to improve the pace of games, including running fewer advertisements and changing when they run. The league is also looking at ways to speed up video reviews by its officials and the time it takes referees to announce penalties on the field.

"We want to take as much what we call dead time, nonaction, out of the game, so that we can make the game more exciting," Goodell said.

The league has expanded the number of games it plays Thursday nights and overseas, leading some to speculate that the NFL may be reducing interest in the game. Goodell said he is mindful of that possibility.

"Every game counts, so that makes our inventory incredibly valuable," he said, adding that the league has to be careful not to saturate the market.

Goodell said he was aware of a surge of complaints that referees were botching calls. He said the league was looking at how best to use technology to improve officiating without slowing the game.

"I was at Giants Stadium in the parking lot last weekend, and I got a lot of feedback from fans," he said.

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