Count the NBA among the professional sports leagues working on cutting down on game time to cater to those pesky Millennials.
While there may be only 48 minutes on the clock, an NBA game takes, on average, closer to 2 hours and 30 minutes. Not bad, especially when considering that MLB games frequently check in over three hours, and the college football title game earlier this week took over four hours. NBA games are over in the blink of an eye compared to the other major leagues, but there is still room for improvement.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver spoke with the media on Thursday before the Denver Nuggets and Indiana Pacers tipped off in London. The primary focus of shortening games is retaining the younger fans whose increasingly short attention spans make it difficult for them to tolerate the final 30 seconds of a game taking closer to ten minutes to play out.
“When the last few minutes of the game take an extraordinary amount of time, sometimes it’s incredibly interesting for fans, other times it’s not,” Silver said. “The short answer to your question is we are going to take a fresh look at the format, specifically in the last two minutes.”
While it is true that there is plenty of dead air during the average NBA game, the sport of basketball does seem better situated to deal with shorter attention spans of the 18-34 crowd. The action flows more freely than in baseball and football where there are literally hours spent waiting for the next play to be called or pitch to be thrown.
Still, the entertainment value can be sapped dramatically by back-and-forth timeouts in the final two minutes of a game that is seemingly already decided or a team continuing to foul even after finding themselves down by more than two buckets.
Many of the measures proposed by the league — attempting to shorten pregame handshakes, stop a 20-second timeout from turning into a 60-second timeout, or even cutting four minutes off the clock — don’t really address the underlying issue with the game. The average NBA game is incredibly entertaining and action-packed right up until the final two minutes when the free-throw parade begins.
It also becomes more difficult to speed up the pace of play without categorically altering the rules of the game. Baseball’s efforts to improve pace of play have been mostly for naught. Everything that the league has done to curtail time between pitches has still left them with a three-hour product.
Of the four major sports leagues, the NBA is perhaps already the best when it comes to attracting and keeping the Millennial audience. Basketball and its stars are easily marketed to the masses as entertainers rather than athletes and have massive crossover appeal.
The NBA has also seemingly embraced Twitter and Vine (RIP) better than any other league, with highlights readily available within seconds of a thundering dunk or game-winning shot, and forget about suspending accounts for sharing and tweeting GIFs. A few tweaks here and there might help, but the NBA is already doing many things right in the eyes of the Millennial audience.