Well, it looks as of some of those TV sports execs can relax a little. This month, scientists at my company spent some time analyzing anonymous set-top-box data from millions of viewers to determine whether NFL viewers this September who were exposed to program promotions during the games actually "responded" to those promos, and watched the promoted shows. We used a sample representing 41 million set-top boxes receiving DirectTV through TNS Infosys.
The results are encouraging. It turns out that NFL programming not only reaches a large, unique audience, but that the viewers are also very responsive to on-air program promotion for other shows.
Here is the data:
First, the chart below recounts the total reach for several program promotion campaigns delivered this past September by CBS and FOX across DirectTV's 41 million set-top boxes, which represents more than 17 million US homes:
For each promotional campaign, networks also placed a small number of promos during NFL games. As you can see from the chart below, the reach generated from these few spots was extraordinary -- 15X relative to the percentage of total spots. Also, a significant portion of the reach was unique and incremental: respondents had not seen promos for those shows during any of their other TV viewing:
Finally, and most importantly, the data demonstrates that NFL fans do respond positively to promos for new shows. The response rates for promos for series premieres during NFL games are nearly as high as response rates for all promos. And, if we exclude same-day promos, NFL viewers actually had higher response rates to program promos than viewers of other programming (in three of the four examples) -- more than 2X better than other programming.
Does this data mean that TV sports execs have a free pass when it comes to buying NFL rights? Of course not. However, it does demonstrate that the "viewership" value of sports programming -- or any programming for that matter -- is now quite measurable, and real data will certainly play a bigger part in making those deals in the future. The data here looks good for NFL games, but I bet that there is lots of sports programming where the data doesn't look so good. What do you think?