How Many Commercials in an NFL Football Game?

by on March 4th, 2011
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If you’re like me you’ll try to make a pit stop, get a drink, dish up ice cream, make popcorn, or something else in order to avoid most of the commercials during a football game. I’ve even been known to flip between two channels in order to watch more football. Doesn’t seem like channel flipping works very well though. Commercials are everywhere! So–I picked a game and kept track of all the commercials and the time wasted on them.

Not that it makes any difference, but the game I picked was Halloween Eve, Sunday Night Football, where the Philadelphia Eagles slaughtered the Dallas Cowboys. The Cowboys are my team so what can I say. They got spanked, now we’re all crying.

I’m going to say right now that I deserve an MVP, or something for watching all these commercials. You simply don’t know what a job it was. My mind turned to jelly by the end of the game.

You can skip to the bottom to see the results or read on to see how I got the results. Pretty interesting, I think.

How I timed the commercials

I used a stopwatch to time the commercials. I also had my wristwatch and a wall clock for base time. I noted game kick off time, half time, second half kick off, and the end of the game. I used the stopwatch only for each commercial, then cleared for the next commercial.

On a clip board I wrote down the time and substance for each commercial.

Just over halfway through the game I discovered how sneaky commercials can be. I finally realized they were doing what I call “flash commercials.” I’m sure they have a name for them in the ad business, but that’s what I’ll use. Flash commercials are where the camera pans away over–almost anything–only to focus on a company or brand name. There may even be a very short video in the same style. These commercials would be maybe five to twenty seconds long, but focus your attention on one to four items–say five seconds on each item. Very sneaky. I missed timing most of them. My experiment is still valid. The flash commercials are actually the least obtrusive.

Commercials were usually shown in blocks of multiples. There were some single commercials, but a block of four was shown most often.

What kind of commercials do we see?

The variety of commercials was pretty impressive. There were car and truck commercials. Fast food, cell phone, sat TV, auto related, car insurance, tech companies, TV networks, candy, video games, law offices, airlines, beer (big surprise), pizza, credit card, radio show, TV shows, sports apparel, banks, NFL, feminine hygiene, movies, restaurants, electronics stores, and grocery store chain. Don’t forget that I’m leaving out the flash commercial items.

The NFL football game commercial timing results

The time noted on the TV schedule for the game was 7:00pm. That really meant a continuation of the pregame show. At 7:15 we were sent to the stadium for more color and to visit with the Sunday night game announcers–Al Michaels and Chris Collinsworth. The kick off was at 7:30pm. The game ended at 10:30pm. I timed commercials only between the beginning kick off and the end of the game. Remember that a football game is four 15 minute quarters for a total of 60 minutes.

There were 130 commercials, not including the flash commercials, that covered a total time of more than–get ready–60 minutes! Coincidence? I bet not.

That’s more than two commercials for each minute of the game. Now we know there are a lot of commercials. I will walk barefoot over nails and broken glass before I do this again.


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