As part of his attempts to curb the “dead time” that unnecessarily lengthens baseball games, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said that long commercial breaks could be the next thing to go. Shortening commercial breaks wouldn’t be as easy as eliminating the four-pitch walk or even installing pitch clocks in major league ballparks; as Manfred relayed to Forbes’ Maury Brown, there are “contractural limitations” that would prevent the league from cutting down on ads too much between innings.
Still, it’s an interesting idea, and one that’s more palatable than the myriad ways Manfred has suggested tampering with the game itself. According to Brown’s report, Red Sox’ owner Tom Werner is also in favor of the idea, though neither he nor Manfred have devised any concrete ways to shorten commercial breaks without taking a hit in revenue first. Tony Clark, head of the Players Association, reminds the league that any measures taken to shorten games have to benefit the players first, including those who might need the extra time to warm up during pitching changes and inning breaks (via the Boston Herald’s Evan Drellich):
Of more pressing concern is how the league would compensate for lost ad revenue. Brown, among others, suggests that shorter commercial breaks could force teams to install advertisements in the parks themselves or add sponsored logos to players’ uniforms. Neither option seems ideal, but the added distractions could be worth the trade-off of shorter television commercials — at least for the fans watching at home, if no one else.
The driving force behind this proposed change is Manfred’s desire to streamline the average baseball game. He said that while he’s not focused on cutting down the length of games, he wants to ensure that each minute is action-packed, while the “dead periods” between balls put in play get reduced as much as is reasonable. At least on the television front, however, any significant changes to MLB’s regularly scheduled programming are likely still several years away.