While the NFL seemed to right the ratings ship last season, it’s anyone’s guess how things will go this season. On one hand, with the lack of sports for months due to the pandemic, you’d think sports fans would be frothing at the mouth ready for some football action – especially with the preseason cancellation. On the other hand, as we’ve seen with the NBA, 2020 ratings seem to be down considerably – and there are plenty of reasons people are tossing around to try and pin the blame.

That got us here at KilltheCableBill thinking about common NFL complaints of the past – one of which was game pacing. Earlier this year, FiveThirtyEight put out an analysis that dissected the typical NFL broadcast. We’ll go into it in a bit more detail further down in this article, but the consensus? The typical NFL game features less actual game action than any other major sport – including the notoriously snail-paced MLB.

Using data from the FiveThirtyEight analysis, we crunched the numbers and found that this season, the average NFL fan will watch 17 hours and 51 minutes of commercials, but only 6 hours and 26 minutes of actual game action!

Let’s take a look at how we arrived at these numbers. We’ll begin at looking at the anatomy of the typical NFL broadcast. According to FiveThirtyEight, the average runtime of a single game is 3 hours and 23 minutes. Of that, a whopping 50 minutes is commercials – that’s 25% of the entire broadcast! These commercials are spread out over about 20 commercial breaks.

Now if you look at game play, we find that the average amount of actual game play in a game is 18 minutes… that’s only 9%! That’s only about a third as long as the commercials!

From there, we took a look at how much football the average fan watches over the course of a season. According to SportFacts.org, the average NFL fan watches 4.2 hours of football each week. Over a 17 week season, that’s 71 hours and 24 minutes of football watched by the average fan.

However, when you take into consideration the anatomy of a football game… well it doesn’t look good. Here’s our breakdown:

  • Each game broadcast averages 25% commercials. If the average fan watches 4.2 hours (252 minutes) of football a week and 25% of that is commercials, then 25% of 4.2 hours is 63 minutes of commercials a week. In a 17 week season, that’s 17 hours, 51 minutes.
  • Actual play per game is only 18 minutes, or 9%. 9% of 4.2 hours is only 22.68 minutes a week. Multiply that for 17 week regular season and you get 385.56 minutes, or 6 hours, 26 minutes. So only about 6.5 hours of actual game play per season!

As for avoiding the commercials, the best way if you’re wanting to watch live is to tune into NFL RedZone. The channel skips around from game to game, allowing you to only see the action. Or if you’re wanting to watch full games, you can watch after the fact with no interruptions on NFL GamePass. International users are especially lucky, as NFL GamePass overseas allows you to stream all games live, commercial free.

With all the uncertainty in the air right now, it’s anyone’s guess how ratings will look this NFL season. As we see above, NFL fans are already sifting through hours of content for a minimal amount of action. How will this look in the 2020 season? Well… it will be interesting to see.

William Parker