NFL Watchers Respond To Program Promos

  • by , Featured Contributor, October 29, 2009
Halloween is almost upon us, and the TV airwaves are full of the NFL, college football and the World Series. Meanwhile, the NBA season isn't far away. While fans are happy, loving the chance to watch their teams on TV, a lot of TV executives are pretty nervous at the moment. CBS, ABC, FOX, NBC and ESPN each spend billions of dollars televising fall sporting events. These investments are made with the full recognition that advertising support on that programming -- even in a good economy -- won't necessarily cover their costs. Their bet is that the sports telecasts will be valuable platforms to promote their new fall shows -- dramas, comedies and reality shows. Their hope is that sports viewers, once promoted to, will actually watch those shows.  

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:

Online Spin/chart 1

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:

Online Spin/chart 2

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.

Online Spin/chart 3

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?

6 comments about "NFL Watchers Respond To Program Promos".
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  1. Nathan Van prooyen from Rainmaker Commerce, October 29, 2009 at 6:36 p.m.

    If I had to take a guess, I would imagine that the "DVR effect" (recorded, fast fw through commercials) is significantly minimized when comparing live sporting events vs. other types of programming.

    Better reach = better response rates. I'd love to see the data on that, I bet the gap is huge.

  2. Brian Hayashi from ConnectMe 360, October 29, 2009 at 7:11 p.m.

    Dave, thanks for sharing this data. When it comes to media dollars, the NFL has ruled the roost for many years. While a comparison to other pro sports would be interesting from an academic perspective, it appears you already know the halo effect an NFL property has in influencing viewership compared to its MLB counterpart.

    Looking at your data, I wonder how hard it would be to estimate the value added of extending the NFL season from 16 to 20 games, and its utility in the upcoming NFL labor negotiations.

  3. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, October 29, 2009 at 7:36 p.m.

    Just curious - the programs you show are from very good to pretty good. What were the results on programs that have bombed? Where the bombs represented in the NFL games? (Sorry I don't watch.) And of those that didn't make it to the promo level, were the networks already clued to their more immediate demise so they didn't think it would help to do so?

  4. Dave Morgan from Simulmedia, October 29, 2009 at 8:02 p.m.

    Paula ... I will check the data, but I suspect that generally it was the better shows that were promoted, given the premium value of NFL spots.

  5. Dave Morgan from Simulmedia, October 29, 2009 at 8:04 p.m.

    Nathan ... our research so far supports your premise, that reach (and very recent reach) is super critical when it comes to program promotion. That is why off-channel promotion is becoming so important to program marketers.

  6. Gavin Ballas, October 30, 2009 at 3:20 p.m.

    In the DR world we look at sports programming with great suspicion. Typically sports programming does not drive much in the way of response. Obviously with TV promos you are trying to elicit a far less involved response than DRTV. Perhaps that is the same reason why NEW shows did not receive response.

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