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Ball in play for a total of 16 minutes and 4 seconds during Super Bowl LI

Let me first start by saying that I love watching football.  It’s an incredible combination of suspense, strategy, action and athleticism; I wouldn’t change a thing if I could.  Just because the ball was in play for only 16 minutes and 4 seconds of the 64 minute play clock (including OT) does not mean I wasn’t thoroughly entertained.

One of my other passions is data, and I’ve always been curious to see exactly how much time is spent with the ball actually in play.  So this year, I decided to be the life of the super bowl party and tally up every second of the broadcast to see what we’re getting for the four hours we spend viewing.

How to read this chart:
I tallied up the time for two different categories:
  • Ball in PlayThe time from the moment the ball is snapped (or kicked) until the moment the play is whistled dead.
  • CommercialsAny time spent viewing commercials or sponsor message.

Each horizontal pixel represents 10 seconds of broadcast time.  Plays of 1 second were rounded up to be a full pixel wide.
Other insights:
  • The longest play of the game was Alford’s pick-six at 15 seconds.
  • There were 178 plays (including kickoffs, point-afters, spikes, etc) with the average play being only 5.47 seconds long.
  • There were approximately 130 30-second commercials.  If each slot was sold for $5 million, that’s a gross of $650 million, or $667,351 per second that the ball was in play.

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