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Reduced halftimes and fewer commercials: Pac-12 experiment aims for shorter football games

The average length of a college football game last season was 3 hours and 24 minutes, or about the time it takes a commercial jet plane to fly from Los Angeles to Chicago.

It was the longest average game time in college football history, and in the Pac-12 Conference it made for late nights.

“For us, ‘the Pac-12 at night game,’ we’re not getting home until midnight,” UCLA offensive lineman Scott Quessenberry said.

On Wednesday, at Pac-12 media days in Hollywood, commissioner Larry Scott announced the most significant effort yet to counter the ever-expanding length of games. The Pac-12 will launch a pilot program during some games during the nonconference season that will experiment with game-shortening measures.

Among the biggest changes: fewer commercials — a cut totaling several minutes of advertising. Also, halftime will be 15 minutes instead of 20.

The changes to halftime procedures require approval of visiting teams, so the conference hasn’t announced which games will operate under the pilot program.

Scott said research from ESPN and the Pac-12 Networks found as much as 30% of viewers tuned out after the first half. “You're at a risk of people tuning out with a long halftime,” Scott said.

Widespread adoption of the Pac-12’s program will almost certainly require a demonstration that fewer commercials won’t hurt revenue. Scott said the conference has explored ways to use on-screen advertising during game play to offset revenue lost from having fewer traditional commercials.

“I don’t know if anyone watched the British Open this weekend on NBC,” Scott said. “You would have seen some new ways of some split screens instead of them breaking away from the action. So we’re going to be on the forefront of experimenting with some of those techniques to eliminate the amount of minutes you’ve got to go away from the game and stop the game.”

Scott said he solicited input from coaches during the spring and summer, and he received support on Wednesday.

“I love it,” Washington coach Chris Petersen said. “I can't stand how long the college football game is. I don't like the games at all. You do a drive, you've got to wait. You do a first down, you've got to wait for another commercial. That's painful.”

Title game to Los Angeles?

The conference announced it has extended its agreement with Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara to host the Pac-12 championship game through 2019, with an option for the conference to extend one additional year.

The timing is important: The Rams’ new stadium in Inglewood and the Raiders’ stadium in Las Vegas are both expected to open in 2020. Scott said representatives from both teams have approached the conference about hosting, and the conference is listening.

Quick hits

Media members picked USC to win the South Division and the conference championship, with 28 votes to Washington's 22. Washington was the favorite in the North. UCLA was picked third in the South. … The Pac-12 will use a centralized replay command center based in San Francisco to assist in-stadium replay officials.

zach.helfand@latimes.com

Follow Zach Helfand on Twitter @zhelfand

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