Television timeout

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A television timeout (alternately TV timeout or media timeout) is a break in a televised live event for the purpose of television broadcasting. This allows commercial broadcasters to take an advertising break, or issue their required hourly station identification, 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 Academy Awards and the Eurovision Song Contest.

Use by sport[edit]

  • American football (NFL): The National Football League requires twenty commercial breaks per game or 16 starting in the 2018 season, with ten or 8 starting in the 2018 season 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 or 8 starting in the 2018 season, two are mandatory: at the end of the first or third quarter, and at the two-minute warning for the end of the half. The remaining eight or 6 breaks starting in the 2018 season 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.
  • Association football (Soccer): Due to the continuous live action from opening kick throughout a half to the whistle at the conclusion of stoppage time, there are no formal television timeouts or commercial breaks; however, the interval between the two halves is approximately 15 minutes. There are no commercial breaks during any extra periods or during any penalty shootouts in FIFA World Cup matches; however, a television timeout may happen between the second period of extra time and the penalty shootout, depending on the broadcaster.
  • 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 men: 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] Effective with the 2015–16 season, 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.[3] 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]
    • College women and FIBA: Media timeouts are taken at the first dead ball after the 5:00 mark in each quarter. Any called timeout before the 5-minute mark of a quarter becomes the media timeout. Organisers have the option in FIBA play to implement a television timeout at the next dead ball following the same point.[4]
    • NBA: There must be two timeouts in each quarter. In each quarter, if no team has called a timeout before the 6:59 mark, a timeout is charged to the home team, and if no subsequent timeout is taken prior to the 2:59 mark, a timeout is charged to the team not previously charged with a timeout. The first and second timeouts in each quarter are two minutes 45 seconds for locally televised games, and three minutes 15 seconds for nationally televised games. Other timeouts in a quarter are one minute 15 seconds in length.[5]
  • 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.[6] 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.[7][8]
  • 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]
  • Ice hockey
    • NHL: Commercial time-outs are taken after 4-minute intervals at the first stoppages of play after the 14:00, 10:00, and 6:00 marks in each period when both teams are at even strength. However, there are no commercial time-outs after a goal, after an icing, during a power-play, during the last 30 seconds of the first and second period or last two minutes in regulation time. Also, there must be at least one minute of play between commercial time-outs and an effort must be done to identify the situations where a video review might happen in order to NOT go into a commercial time-out.[9] During outdoor games, a hard TV timeout is called at the 10:00 mark of the third period, and play is immediately stopped (as they need to change ends of the ice to ensure fairness). Additionally there are no timeouts, commercial or team, granted during a shootout. Due to these restrictions, it is 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.[10] During overtime, television timeouts are taken only in the following situations:
      • In the preseason and the regular season, between the end of the overtime period and the beginning of the shootout. No television timeouts are taken during the overtime period.
      • In the postseason, at the first stoppage of play after the halfway point in the overtime period.
  • Motorsports: Most races are unable to accommodate television timeouts, but certain events, such as the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, events are structured with a safety car after 20 minutes of green flag action to help inexperienced drivers acclimate themselves with pit stops (full green flag pit stops are discouraged in order to help younger drivers gain experience with live pit stops in a more controlled environment). 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.[11]

Use by other live events[edit]

The Academy Awards and other award ceremonies that are broadcast live have media timeouts at regular intervals. During this time, members of the audience may vacate their seats for various reasons (such as getting refreshments, going to the bathroom, going backstage for the next presentation, etc.) and seat fillers then scramble to make sure the entire theater or venue remains full for the TV cameras.[12][13]

Each participating broadcaster of the Eurovision Song Contest is required to broadcast the show in its entirety: including all songs, recap, voting and reprise, skipping only the interval act for advertising breaks if they wish.[14] Since 1999, broadcasters who wished to do so were given the opportunity to take more advertising breaks as short, non-essential hiatuses were introduced.[15]


  1. ^ Samual Apt (January 25, 2010). "ESPN Positions Itself to Take on Europe". The International Herald Tribune. The New York Times Company. Retrieved April 16, 2018. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  2. ^ a b Voepel, Mechelle (May 9, 2013). "Panel recommends 10-second rule". Retrieved May 16, 2013. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  3. ^ "Shorter shot clock, fewer timeouts among changes coming in 2015-16". June 8, 2015. Retrieved June 9, 2015. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  4. ^ "NCAA panel approves women's basketball rules changes". Associated Press. June 8, 2015. Retrieved June 9, 2015. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  5. ^ "NBA Rule Book 2017–2018" (PDF). National Basketball Association. p. 22. Retrieved May 27, 2018. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  6. ^ Booth, Lawrence (16 April 2009). "Indian Premier League introduces compulsory time-outs during matches". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 4 April 2013. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  7. ^ "IPL 3 to start on March 12 in Hyderabad". The Times of India. 11 August 2009. Retrieved 4 April 2013. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  8. ^ ""Strategic time out" to rake in money". Cricket Country. Retrieved 4 April 2013. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  9. ^ "Week 20 - Need a Break?". February 23, 2015. Retrieved April 16, 2018.
  10. ^ NHL to implement another rule change for icing,, November 23, 2008
  11. ^ "Official Volleyball Rules". Fédération Internationale de Volleyball. 2005. Retrieved 2008-08-20. External link in |work= (help)CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  12. ^ Felicetti, Kristen (February 20, 2015). "Seat Filler: The Hollywood Job You Never Knew Existed".
  13. ^ Wharton, David (March 29, 1992). "They Wait for Chance to Sit and Serve : Seat fillers scramble to occupy the chairs of celebrities at televised awards shows, like tomorrow's Oscar extravaganza". The Los Angeles Times.
  14. ^ "Rules for the Eurovision Song Contest 2009" (PDF). European Broadcasting Union. Retrieved July 18, 2009. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  15. ^ "Rules of the 44th Eurovision Song Contest, 1999" (PDF). European Broadcasting Union. October 13, 1998. Retrieved July 18, 2006. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)