Several weeks ago the BBC introduced me to Fast4 Tennis. This is an Australian innovation, created by the governing body of tennis in Australia and began in January. This version of tennis only lasts an hour and has no lets and no advantage points. The first to four games wins a set and at a tiebreaker (at 3-3), the first to five points wins. The variation is viewed as a complement rather than as replacement for the traditional format and can be viewed here.
The BBC cite the falling participation numbers as a key reason in developing the new rules. This concept of 'selling' a sport better by shortening the length of a game has occurred in other sports relatively recently too; Twenty20 Cricket began in 2003 and Power Snooker was first played competitively in 2010 as part of Barry Hearn's make-over of snooker. In 2015 tennis has followed suit.
Tennis, Snooker and Cricket appear to be moving toward the shorter model of other sports which have greater restrictions on the length of the competition. These sports are coming 'on-the clock', or placing more stringent timing limits, to compete with clocked sports such football, basketball and rugby. The shorter model seems to appeal to sports fans who require a greater degree of certainty regarding when an outcome of a contest will be known, and really doesn't require a sports fan to put up with delaying their gratification for a result. How individuals evaluate sooner (smaller) rewards and larger (later) rewards is key to studying intertemporal choice or choice over time in economics.
The move could also be viewed as a method to attract children to a sport who naturally find it more difficult to delay gratification when compared to adults. From my understanding of baseball, the games length is becoming increasingly longer over the years but the sport is also becomingly increasingly unpopular in the U.S when compared to American football. While I'm not suggesting that the game length is solely causing the decline in popularity, the responses of cricket, snooker and now tennis to potential popularity issues makes me think about the links between the length of a contest and its popularity as a sport. Maybe 'speed baseball' already exists, if not, it will be interesting to see if it develops in the future.