The NBA may be doing just fine when it comes to TV ratings, but that doesn’t mean it is a perfect product. The final minutes of a close game can be a chore for viewers with constant fouling and time outs that extend a game. So in an attempt to shorten how long it takes for the final minutes to be played, the NBA will limit how many timeouts a team can take in a game and in the last two minutes.
Starting in the 2017-18 season, the NBA will cut down on the total number of timeouts a team can take from 18 to 14. In the final two minutes of a game, a team will only be allowed to call a maximum of three timeouts. For those who have grown frustrated over how many timeouts there can be in the final minutes of a game, these changes are designed for you, and should help in keeping casual fans from wandering away to something else, including another channel.
“We were more focused on the pace and flow of the game, and what we heard from our fans and many of our teams was that the end of games, in particular, were too choppy,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in a released statement. “These new changes will have a significant impact, especially on the end of games.”
The NBA has already taken strides in cutting down the length of an average regular season game with recent changes, trimming the length of a game from 2 hours and 23 minutes down to 2 hours and 15 minutes. With these new rules, that average length of a game could come in just over two hours, which would be fantastic from a product standpoint in an age where every league suffers from having games take too long to play.
Having games trimmed down to close to two hours allows for maximizing the viewing experience for fans by condensing more of the actual action into a smaller timeframe on TV. Fewer breaks in the action should keep fans watching at home more engaged with the game. Any extra downtime leads viewers to get distracted by something else, be it on the TV, their computer or phone and so on. Cutting down on the opportunities for those viewers to turn their attention away is a big win for the NBA and their TV partners. Broadcast partners should be ecstatic about having an already successful product find a way to improve the flow, because we all know downtime in a sports broadcast can be painful for everyone involved.
Cutting down on the number of timeouts is one thing, but the NBA went a few steps farther too.
All timeouts will now be 75 seconds long as opposed to the former timeout rules that allowed for 100-second full timeouts and 20-second timeouts, which the NBA admits typically ran closer to a full minute. The league is also going to start cracking down on free-throw shooters taking a long walk away from the free throw line between attempts. This has always been a bit of a pet peeve for some, seeing players slap hands with teammates after every single attempt. Now, they will supposedly be restricted from taking so long in between attempts. And halftime will be regulated to 15 minute-breaks rather than having some halftimes go longer in some cities. The halftime clock will now begin promptly at the end of the second quarter.
“What we’ve done, we’ve found other opportunities in the format … to ensure we get our full complement of commercials in,” Silver said. “It’s the reality of the telecasts. But it also works in that, even if we weren’t going to commercial, players still need rest. That’s something we’ve focused on as well.”
It all comes back to the NBA finding a way to thrive on TV, and keeping the game moving is the best way to do so. The NBA has tended to be forward-thinking when it comes to marketing its product, and this may be another example of how the NBA knows what to do to make for a more attractive product on TV while other leagues such as Major League Baseball and the NHL continue to try and figure it out.