Could An NFL Lockout Force Networks To Run Even More Ads?

Now that the NFL’s postseason is in full swing (even though my beloved Eagles were so quickly eliminated), it’s time for many to start wondering if owners and players will be able to resolve their problems before the start of the next season. If not, the biggest losers could end up being the networks and, by extension, TV viewers — whether they watch football or not.

Not only are the major networks facing an estimated $3 billion loss in ad revenue if the NFL lockout occurs, NBC, ABC, CBS, Fox, and DirecTV have contributed to a $4 billion pool that they must pay to the NFL regardless of whether or not a single game of football is played.

While the NFL general counsel says the league would “have to give [the money] back to them and take reductions about what we get from them for future years,” that could be a lengthy process and TV networks are not known for patience.

So what’s the fastest way for broadcasters to make money? More commercials.

We’ve already seen Viacom-owned cable channel Spike TV running commercial breaks that last as long as 10 minutes, and several of the ad breaks during the finale episode of Lost ran upwards of six to seven minutes. So the precedent has been set for longer commercial interruptions.

We wonder if this could also mean an increase in the number of ads aired during the breaks of shows running on Hulu and other sites, where most viewers have gotten used to only one or two ads at a time.

Finally, broadcasters rarely make a change that would lead to less revenue. So, supposing they begin loading up prime time with even more ads, and people don’t turn off their TV sets en masse, it’s unlikely that you’d see the networks going back to a normal number of ads if/when they get their money back from the NFL.