As NFL ratings have cratered this season, you’d think that its advertisers would be lining up at the networks’ doors seeking makegood commericials. With the numbers for primetime games on Sunday, Monday and Thursday off by 19, 24 and 18 percent respectively and the Sunday afternoon games down by an average of five percent through Week 7, the networks certainly are not hitting their ratings guarantees.
There are several factors cited including the Presidential election, cord cutting, falling female viewership, the lack of star power early in the season, bad games, poor officiating, etc.
However, advertisers are saying publicly that they’re satisified thus far as the networks have been taking care of them. The reaction from media buyers that has come in to date is not a “sky is falling” mentality, but more of a wait-and-see approach:
“It’s nothing we’re freaking out over. The networks are working with us and right now we are still in a good place.”
“My clients have seen the stories in the press about NFL ratings being down and asked us about it. We told them not only have we been monitoring the situation but that the networks have been making sure they are getting the audience levels they have been guaranteed.”
“If we ask the networks for makegoods, we are getting them. If we want to wait until later in the season, we can do that. But these early ratings shortfalls are not a concern to advertisers right now. The NFL is still the highest rated programming on television and being watched by mass audiences in real time.”
“Pretty much all of our clients are getting close to 100% delivery right now,” the agency exec says. “It’s not as doom-and-gloom, as the press has portrayed things.”
According to Broadcasting & Cable magazine, a source at one of the NFL TV partners said that makegood ads have been made available in other programs to make up for the lower ratings so that the networks do not fall behind their ratings guarantees to their clients.
Some advertisers did hold off buying ads during the first two months of the NFL season as they purchased commercials for the Rio Olympics, but then bought in for football for the last two months especially for NBC’s first season of Thursday Night Football. And while advertisers are happy now, one buyer did warn that things could get dicey if the ratings continue to be stagnant after the Presidential election:
“The networks are more heavily sold for November and December than they were for September and October, so if the ratings continue to be depressed after the election, some problems could arise,”
So for now, the NFL’s network partners and their advertisers aren’t panicking. They know that the sport has gone through ratings downturns in the past and both sides are working in concert to make sure the advertisers are taken care of. We’ll see if the primetime ratings improve especially when NBC can start using its flex options to move poor matchups and bring in more attractive games.