Television timeout

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A television timeout (or TV timeout) is a break in a televised live event to allow television advertisements to be shown. This allows commercial broadcasters to take an advertising break without causing viewers to miss part of the action.

Programs making use of timeouts are usually live-action sporting events. However, other live programs occasionally make use of timeouts for advertising purposes, such as the Eurovision Song Contest.

Use by sport[edit]

  • American football (NFL): The National Football League requires twenty commercial breaks per game, with ten in each half. (Exceptions to this are overtime periods, which have none.) These breaks run either a minute, or two minutes in length. Of the ten commercial breaks per half, two are mandatory: at the end of each quarter, and at the two-minute warning for the end of the half. The remaining eight breaks are optional.[1] The timeouts can be applied after field goal tries, conversion attempts for both one and two points following touchdowns, changes in possession either by punts or turnovers, and kickoffs (except for the ones that start each half, or are within the last five minutes). The breaks are also called during stoppages due to injury, instant replay challenges, when either of the participating teams uses one of its set of timeouts, and if the network needs to catch up on its commercial advertisement schedule. The arrangement for college football contests is the same, except for the absence of the two-minute warning.
  • Australian rules football (AFL): after a goal has been scored, before the umpire bounces the ball in the center square to restart play. There is no TV timeout after a behind is scored.
  • Baseball: No formal television timeout, but the interval between the end of a half-inning is set between two and three minutes for televised games, and during pitching changes that happen in the middle of an inning for the pitcher to warm up.
  • Basketball (College): at the first dead ball after 4-minute intervals (beyond the 16:00, 12:00, 8:00 and 4:00 minute mark of each half).[2] Additionally, the first 30-second team timeout in the second half is expanded to a television timeout.[citation needed] If free throws are to be shot, a timeout is taken first.[citation needed] The NCAA tweaked the rule for women's basketball only beginning with the 2013–14 season. Under the current women's rule, when a team calls a timeout within the 30-second window before the next scheduled TV timeout break, the called timeout takes the place of the scheduled TV timeout. The only exception to this rule is the first called team timeout in the second half. A similar rule in the NBA is used when a 20-second timeout is called but a team's mandatory timeout point has been reached.[2]
  • Basketball (NBA): "Mandatory timeouts" are called at the first dead ball after 6:00 and 3:00 in each quarter and after 9:00 in the second and fourth quarters. First mandatory timeout is charged to the home team and second TV timeout is charged to the away team (or whichever team has not been charged previously in that quarter), assuming no other full 1:40 timeouts have been called, which replace the mandatory TV timeouts. In addition, a timeout after 3:00 in the second and fourth quarters is called but not charged to either team, if neither team has called one prior to that point. If they do, then the "official's timeout" (as it is called) is given at the first minute mark in which it is not taken early by either team.[3]
  • Bowling: Varies.[vague]
  • Cricket: Generally at the end of some overs as the field switches around, when a wicket falls, during drinks breaks and during intervals. In the 2009 season of the Indian Premier League of Twenty20 cricket, the halfway point of each innings contained a seven-and-a-half minute stoppage of play, two-thirds of which were devoted to advertising time.[4] After complaints by viewers and players (criticizing its use as an extended commercial break, and for breaking the flow of the game), these breaks were replaced in the following year by two compulsory "strategic timeouts" of two-and-a-half minutes per innings. One must be taken by the bowling team between the 6th to 10th overs, and the batting team between the 11th to 16th overs.[5][6]
  • Curling: at the conclusion of each end. The game generally resumes before the commercial break ends, so when the broadcast comes back on a few rocks will have already been thrown.[citation needed]
  • Hockey (NHL): during stoppages of play, at the discretion of the TV timeout coordinator and typically after passing the following marks of each period: less than 14:00, less than 10:00 and less than 6:00.[citation needed] One of the linesmen wears a pager that alerts him when a TV timeout should be taken.[citation needed] A TV timeout does not take place while a team is short handed due to penalties: it would then occur after the first whistle following the team's return to full strength (most commonly as a result of an offside or a save by a goaltender, or when the puck is deflected out of play). It does on occasion take place before the power play begins. Timeouts also do not occur immediately after a goal or after an icing infraction. Due to these restrictions, it is occasionally possible that not all of the scheduled breaks are taken, in which case sometimes a network will take a timeout at the conclusion of the game to make up for it before signing off on the broadcast.[7] TV timeouts are rarely, if ever, taken during overtime.
  • Motorsports: Most races are unable to accommodate television timeouts, but certain events (especially in NASCAR)—Sprint Unlimited, NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race (20 laps, no commercials, in each segment, 10 laps in the final), and selected Camping World Truck Series races—are structured with breaks built in. In order to alleviate the lack of television timeout periods, technology such as Side-By-Side has been introduced. During the Sprint All-Star Race, commercials are only taken between periods after the pit stop, or during safety car situations.
  • Tennis: during the break after odd-numbered games when players change ends.[citation needed]
  • Volleyball and Beach volleyball: in volleyball games governed by FIVB, television timeouts are referred to as technical time-outs and occur during each non-tie-breaking set.[8]


  1. ^ Abt, Samuel. "ESPN Positions Itself to Take on Europe," The International Herald Tribune, Monday, January 25, 2010.
  2. ^ a b Voepel, Mechelle (May 9, 2013). "Panel recommends 10-second rule". Retrieved May 16, 2013. 
  3. ^ NBA Scoring and Timing Rules Section VII part d
  4. ^ Booth, Lawrence (16 April 2009). "Indian Premier League introduces compulsory time-outs during matches". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 4 April 2013. 
  5. ^ "IPL 3 to start on March 12 in Hyderabad". The Times of India. 11 August 2009. Retrieved 4 April 2013. 
  6. ^ ""Strategic time out" to rake in money". Cricket Country. Retrieved 4 April 2013. 
  7. ^ NHL to implement another rule change for icing,, November 23, 2008 
  8. ^ "Official Volleyball Rules". Fédération Internationale de Volleyball. 2005. Retrieved 2008-08-20.