Channel Seven knows that in a lot of games the drop-off rate of viewers after the long break is too great. In fact, the network’s Melbourne managing director, Lewis Martin, made a presentation with just that point.
So how do you keep viewers in front of the TV? Don’t give them time to move away. And what the broadcaster wants, it normally gets … see you on Good Friday.
To be clear, shortening games is not a bad idea. But the bits that needs shortening are the quarters that routinely run for more than half an hour.
The breaks could be shorter, but not halved. How will 50,000 people – let alone double that at the big games – go at getting out to the bathroom, buying an expensive, mid-strength beer and a pie, and getting back to their seats in half the time they normally do?
What will the change do for pourage rights at grounds? What about the contracts with catering firms and stadia, bearing in mind the AFL now owns one of those stadiums?
The first stage in the meritorious move to cut game length should be to keep quarters under half an hour. Shorten quarters – and with it reduce the interchange cap so the players do tire in games, and the best players spend more time on the ground.
Then take a minute off the breaks at quarter-time and three-quarter-time and two minutes off the half-time break. Half-time doesn’t need to be shortened by more than that.
Bear in mind this push to reduce game time comes a day after the AFL raised the idea of introducing captains’ challenges for video reviews to see whether a ball gave a player’s fingernail a manicure on the way through for a goal. That’ll speed the game up!