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Steve Bisciotti On NFL's Ratings: Fix Commercials

Posted Jan 15, 2017

The Ravens owner said a reduction in income for owners and players could be the result of improving the viewer's experience. He's a fan of referees, but feels they need more help from better replay angles.

This is for fans who will grow tired of watching commercials during this weekend’s playoff football slate.

Ravens Owner Steve Bisciotti is right there in agreement.

“It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that nobody wants to see two minutes of commercials, come back, kick the ball and then go to a minute-and-a-half of commercials,” Bisciotti said Tuesday. “I’ve thought that was absurd since I was 20 years old.”

The NFL’s declining ratings have been widely reported this season, and there’s been much talk about why. The 2016 election, the referees, players’ off-field-issues, the crackdown on player celebrations, the injury-inducing big hits (and lack of big hits) have all been cited as possible factors.

Bisciotti first questioned whether the ratings drop is just a reflection of problems across television. Consumers have turned more and more to their smartphones.

“This is the most precipitous drop we’ve ever had, right?” Bisciotti said.

“It has to be compared with everything else that [the television networks are] doing. I don’t know if ‘CSI’ is down 10 percent also. You’d have to compare apples to apples by looking at general viewership. But yes, those numbers were pretty stark at the beginning of the year.”

Still, Bisciotti thinks altering the commercials during games could be a place to start. The NFL already began experimenting in Week 16, as networks played with the number of ads in a break, the length of the ads and the frequency of the breaks.

“We’ve got to figure that out,” Bisciotti said. “Again, if you change that, it could mean a reduction in income, but that’s going to hit the players more significantly than it’s going to hit the owners. I still don’t know any owner that’s in this business because of the money.

“Everything is on the table, and if we have to go to ABC and NBC and say that we’ve got to cut some commercials out and give some money back and half of that money doesn’t go into the player pool, maybe that’s what we’re going to have to do. But our expenses would be adjusted accordingly too. So, I’d like to see some things cleaned up.”

With regards to referees, Bisciotti said he’s a “big fan of the refs, because I think their job is so hard.”

He continues to advocate for more camera angles on replays so that referees have a better chance of getting a call correct. There still aren’t cameras aimed directly down the sideline or goal line, which would go a long way in determining if a player stepped out of bounds or broke the scoring plane.

“I think how we implement refereeing has to change,” Bisciotti said. “I don’t think those guys can get any better, and I’m certainly a proponent for that, and I think a lot of the other owners are too. I think we’re going to make some strides.”

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