The PJ Tatler

NFL May Dump the Extra Point, but Probably Won't

Fox and others are reporting that the NFL is considering doing away with the most routine scoring play in football — the extra point kick.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell told the NFL Network on Monday that the league’s Competition Committee is looking at proposals that would end extra point kicks after touchdowns in favor of a revised scoring system.

“The extra point is almost automatic,” Goodell told the network. “I believe we had five missed extra points this year out of 1,200 some odd (attempts). So it’s a very small fraction of the play, and you want to add excitement with every play.”

One proposal would have touchdowns count for 7 points automatically, but teams could elect to go for two. If they did and succeeded, they would get a 2-point conversion, but if they failed, would only get six points.

When I first heard this idea I didn’t like it, but upon further review, it’s not bad. Football games now seem to run about twice as much ad time as game time, especially when games like this season’s Dallas Cowboys vs. Denver Broncos shootout went go to 51-48. The game was exciting, but ad time between scores made it seem like it would never end.

If you’ve gotten the impression that there isn’t much action in televised football, that’s not a mistaken impression. Commercial time takes up roughly six times as much airtime as actual football, according a study by the Wall Street Journal.

football-time

Game action only accounts for 11 minutes out of a typical 3 to 3.5 hour football broadcast. Soccer haters are gonna hate, but one thing that I love about watching that sport on TV is that once they kickoff a half, there are no commercial breaks. Commercial breaks do not interrupt the flow of the game. Game time is game time and 45 minutes usually ends up taking between 45 and 48 minutes, accounting for stoppage time. Football delivers far less action time, but far more opportunities to air ads, so it will always be more viable as a TV product in the US than soccer.

The extra point kick is usually one of the dullest moments of football, coming after the excitement of scoring a touchdown and before what is now usually a booming kickoff through the back of the end zone. But eliminating it would come at a price. A worthless play is worth a lot of ad revenue.

As football games are aired now, networks tend to run a full commercial break after a team scores a touchdown, return for the all but automatic extra point kick, run another full slate of commercials, then return for the kickoff, and run a full slate of ads after the kickoff, then return for first down. Eliminating the extra point kick would eliminate a couple of those commercial breaks. That would cost between three and six minutes of air time after every single touchdown. Eliminating that many commercial breaks would be great for keeping the game going and flowing and would shorten overall airtime, but runs the risk of bringing in fewer ad dollars per game. The NFL could remedy that just by charging more per spot, but that might also drive some ad buyers away. If teams and players stand to haul in less revenue due to the elimination of the extra point kick, they will fight to keep the extra point kick.