NFL Ad Revenue Is Up, and Makegoods Are Down, During This Season’s First 3 Months

Football ratings declines still aren't hitting the bottom line yet

Ad revenue from November's national NFL games increased 5% year over year.
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NFL ratings are down this season, but in-game ad revenue continues to grow year-over-year this season, according to new data from Standard Media Index.

This season’s NFL revenue, from September to the end of November, is up 2 percent among all networks. There was one additional nationally aired linear TV game than in the same time period in 2016.

That continues the trend from earlier in the season, when NFL TV ad spending jumped 2 percent year over year.

According to SMI, which tracks 70 percent of national ad spending from global and independent agencies, the average cost of a 30-second spot among all networks rose slightly, $468,434 to $473,775 this year. But the percentage of makegoods has fallen slightly year over year, to 21 percent in 2017, compared to 22 percent in 2016.

In the month of November, ad revenue from national NFL games was up 5 percent over last November, though that increase was mostly because of an extra Thursday Night Football game that fell in November this year, as well as a Thursday game that aired on NBC this year but had been exclusively on the NFL Network, where revenue is far lower, in 2016.

The average 30-second spot for NFL games in November jumped from $502,809 last year to $513,293, while makegoods declined slightly during the month, from 23 percent to 22 percent.

During that time frame, the biggest increases in category spend for in-game advertising were insurance (41 percent), alcohol (23 percent), quick service restaurants (11 percent) and consumer electronics (4 percent). On the other end of the spectrum, telecommunications spending was down by 8 percent over last year, financial services fell 6 percent and automotive spend was off 4 percent.

Despite the debate about the NFL’s future this year after a dip in ratings and advertiser concern over protest coverage on TV, media companies are continuing to invest heavily in football.

Last week, Verizon committed more than $2 billion over five years in its new NFL streaming deal, which will enable it to stream more games, including the Super Bowl, to all smartphone users, not just Verizon customers. And both CBS and NBC have indicated a willingness to continue sharing Thursday Night Football games when that deal expires after this season.

Beyond football, the national TV market ad spend was up 2 percent year over year in November (cable revenue increased 3 percent, while broadcast jumped 1 percent). Year-to-date, however, revenue is down 3 percent compared to the January-to-November period last year.

Among the big four broadcast networks, NBC’s revenue was up 16 percent in November, while CBS saw a 1 percent bump. Meanwhile, ABC fell 5 percent and Fox was down 13 percent, mostly due to steep drops in its entertainment programming.

As for cable networks, ESPN had a 3 percent increase in November, Nickelodeon was up 4 percent and TBS, HGTV and AMC all saw gains of 7 percent. Among the top cable networks by volume, only TNT saw a decrease in ad spend year over year, in the mid-single digits, but is up 1 percent year-to-date.

Overall in national TV last month, the insurance category’s overall spend increased 18 percent and telecommunications saw a 9 percent jump. The auto and pharmaceutical categories were flat. Advertisers who are traditionally strong around the holiday season saw drops this year, including specialty retailers (down 4 percent), consumer electronics (off 9 percent) and toys/video games (a 1 percent decline).

The Standard Media Index data showed another strong performance from news, which jumped 8 percent year-to-date, with the three cable news networks—Fox News, CNN and MSNBC—up 14 percent year-to-date.

Since the November 2016 election, Fox News revenue has jumped 12 percent, CNN had a 15 percent increase and MSNBC skyrocketed 26 percent, though its volume is lower than its competitors.

In that November-to-November time frame, the average cost of a 30-second primetime spot has increased on each cable news network: Fox News jumped from $7,843 to $8,286, CNN increased from $5,122 to $5,467 and MSNBC went from $2,553 to $3,139.

During November alone, ad revenue among the three cable news networks was up 3 percent, led by Fox News with a 9 percent hike. CNN is up 1 percent, though MSNBC is down 8 percent, which is its second consecutive month of year-over-year declines.

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