Limited Commercial Breaks Could Impact NFL Viewership Next Season

Fort Washington, Pennsylvania, May 2, 2017 – Amidst a weekend where close to a quarter of a million people were in attendance for the NFL Draft in Philadelphia, the latest research conducted by Leger provides insight into NFL viewer perceptions of some of the major “pace of play” rule changes designed to address (in part) the decline in TV ratings for NFL games from the 2016-17 regular season.

As indicated in previous research, the number one reason for declining NFL TV ratings last season was linked to the players protesting/kneeling during the national anthem. However, according to the latest research by Leger, close to one-quarter (23%) cited the pace of games (such as the amount of commercials, television time outs, length of replay reviews) for their decreased viewership. The March/April 2017 research also shows that changes designed to address this issue should provide the NFL with the opportunity to enhance the detractors’ experiences when watching games.

Much to the dismay of advertisers, the reduction of in-game commercial breaks will enhance the NFL viewer experience among current viewers as well as detractors. More than seven in ten (71%) who watched NFL games more during the 2016-2017 season claim reducing in-game commercial breaks would enhance the viewer experience; furthermore, six in ten (62%) who are watching less (or the same amount) feel this change would be an enhancement as well. For those who did not watch any NFL games this past season, only one in eight (13%) considered this change to be an improvement – a sign that non-viewers will be averse to watching any NFL games this upcoming year.


NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell acknowledged the annoyance of commercial breaks before and after kickoffs, with a goal to eliminate this type of interruption. Among detractors, the elimination of these breaks will also be well-received. More than half of those who watched less NFL this year (53%) would consider the change to enhance the NFL viewing experience, yet for more than seven in ten of those who watched more NFL this past season, this change would be considered to enhance the viewer experience a great deal.

Those who watched the NFL less, or the same, share a similar level of sentiment that adding centralized reply from NFL Headquarters (31%, each) would greatly enhance their viewership experience; however, one in three (32%) of those who watched less cited this would not enhance their experience at all – among those who watched the same this negative outlook drops down to one in five (21%).


The change of centralized replay (from NFL headquarters) garners the most appeal and acceptance among those who watched more NFL this past season; however, the changes will only reinforce their entrenched viewership.

The addition of a play clock between points after touchdowns (PATs) yields polarizing results from those who watched less/same this past season. One-third (34%) of those who watched the NFL less cite the play clock being an enhancement, while a slightly smaller proportion (31%) considered this adjustment as a change that would not enhance the viewer experience. For those who watched the same amount, the positive vs. negative position of this change was 31% and 27%, respectively.

Conversely, those who are not watching more frequently will likely overlook these details and instead consider addressing the issues around commercial breaks. These two changes may help win back some of the NFL detractors from the previous season, while at the same time, limit the frequency in which viewers leave the room or change the channel during commercial breaks.

So who are these detractors?
Feel free to reach out to Simon Jaworski or Lance Henik for additional details on this research!</p style=”text-align: center;”>
Although these adjustments represent positive changes to the NFL viewer experience, the elephant in the room will still need to be addressed – the player protests that take place during the national anthem. Leger research has shown that the player protests led the way for declined ratings during the regular season, with politics playing a factor as many of these specific detractors were Trump supporters in the previous election.

Time will tell if the player protests will continue to impact NFL viewership ratings during a polarizing Trump presidency. On the other hand, the latest research conducted by Leger shows no signficant differences between Trump and Clinton voters regarding the extent these changes will impact the NFL viewer experience.

In other words, the issue of the commercial interruptions during NFL games seems to be a bi-partisan issue.

Imagine that: Common Ground!

The survey was conducted online with 1,007 respondents, 18 years of age or older, among the U.S. population from March 28th through April 4th, 2017, and was balanced/weighted to statistically represent the country by age, gender, ethnicity, and region. Based on this sample size, the results carry a margin of error of approximately ± 3.1% at the 95% confidence level.

Survey participants were asked to rate the extent each of the following changes would enhance their viewing experience of NFL games on television, on a scale of 1-7 where ‘7’ would enhance the experience of watching NFL games a great deal and ‘1’ means it would not enhance the experience of watching NFL games at all:

• Centralized replay reviews from NFL headquarters
• Institution of a play clock added between extra points
• The elimination of break-kickoff-break commercial sequences
• The reduction in the amount of in-game commercial breaks

The item in the list was considered to enhance the experience if rated a 6 or 7 (top two box), and was considered an item that would not enhance the experience if rated a 1, 2, or 3 (bottom two box).

The January 2017 Leger poll was conducted online with 1,010 respondents from January 20th through January 25th, 2017; and carry a margin of error of approximately ± 3.1% at the 95% confidence level. The October 2016 Leger poll was conducted online with 1,046 respondents; fielded from October 28th through November 1st, 2016; and carry a margin of error of approximately ± 3.0% at the 95% confidence level.

For more information, contact:
Lance Henik