Just for Fun NFL

Breaking Down an NFL Broadcast into Game Action vs. Misc Stuff

Photo: AJ Guel

The average NFL game broadcast lasts over three hours.

The average playing time within an NFL broadcast? Just 11 minutes.

That’s what a report from the Wall Street Journal found in 2010 anyway. The WSJ studied four NFL broadcasts and discovered that on average a viewer will see:

Screen Shot 2015-03-25 at 4.48.16 PM

  • 67 minutes of players standing around
  • 17 minutes of replays
  • 11 minutes of actual playing time
  • 3 seconds of cheerleaders

The WSJ study discovered that “coaches get half as much airtime as gameplay; shots of players on the sideline get roughly a third; closeups of the referee about a fourth.”


If you’re looking for a more updated review, look no further than a study published by the Media Education Foundation; they analyzed the 2014 Superbowl and found the ball was in play for 17 minutes and 30 seconds. 


Super Bowl XLVIII broadcast on FOX showed:


Super Bowl XLVIII (Photo: Anthony Quintano)

  • 17 minutes of actual playing time
  • 23 minutes of replays
  • 72 minutes of field coverage (ball not live)
  • 48 minutes of commercials
  • 7 minutes of network promos
  • 12 minutes of halftime show coverage
  • 4 minutes of halftime reporting
  • 16 minutes of miscellaneous coverage

Wondering what on the field coverage includes? Players getting up after a tackle, jogging to the line of scrimmage or sideline, huddling up and that type of thing.

So, of the actual playing time, what are the athletes doing?

During an average NFL game in 2013 fans watched:

  • 10.5 kickoffs
  • 80.5 passes
  • 53.1 runs
  • 5.4 sacks
  • 30.9 kickoff punts, punts, field-goal attempts or kneel-downs

Isn’t it amazing that all of those plays are packed into just 11 to 17 minutes?

I’m impressed.

About the author


Kristina writes about NFL and NBA athletes. She founded The Sports Loop and can be reached on Twitter at @kristinarunning. She's a marathoner and hopes to one day be an ultramarathoner.