Can You See Me Now? Digital Vs. Trad TV Viewing Of NFL Games

If you are still looking for ground-breaking changes on the digital platform versus the traditional network front, you won’t find them regarding this year’s NFL  “Thursday Night Football” series so far.

Twitter’s first digital stream of a “TNF” game pulled in 243,000 viewers per average minute viewing. The number for more traditional TV channels, CBS and the NFL Network? That was 15.4 million viewers per average minute viewing.

What about total viewers? Twitter pulled in 2.1 million unique viewers. Traditional TV networks, by way of comparison, reached 48.1 million viewers.

Business media headlines now know the score: Digital media numbers won’t reach traditional TV numbers.

Of course this wasn’t the case back in October when Yahoo, after a mostly exclusive NFL regular season game, posted a “15.2 million” number for unique viewers worldwide.  The business press didn’t totally get it. Actually, Yahoo pulled in a TV-like estimate of 2.36 million viewers.



It wasn’t that this year’s streaming game on Twitter was an NFL version of small ball. The New York Jets-Buffalo Bills scored lots. Final score: 37-31 in the Jets favor.

Twitter says individual viewers averaged about 22 minutes of the game. When looking at all digital properties, each viewer average 25 minutes of viewing.

Still, things perhaps didn’t all go that well for traditional TV networks. The Jets-Bills game was down 28% on CBS from the first “Thursday Night Football” game of a year ago -- to a Nielsen 3.8 rating/14 share among 18-49 viewers.

Twitter landed worldwide streaming rights to 10 “TNF” games this season for a reported $15 million. For around 250,000 viewers per average minute viewing (including worldwide viewers) and a cost of $1.5 million per game, that means a $6 cost per viewer.

Is it worth it? It’s still early in the game.

8 comments about "Can You See Me Now? Digital Vs. Trad TV Viewing Of NFL Games ".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, September 19, 2016 at 2:40 p.m.

    Obviously, the results for a single NFL game aren't necessarily indicative of Twitter's performance, overall----but the relative size of the digital audience compared to "linear TV" for the identical content is exactly what the TV networks have been seeing when they review the idea of promoting program tune-in via Twitter. The digital audience is so small on any given viewing occasion that it doesn't carry the required punch. That doesn't mean that this situation will continue in the future, but digital video venues have a long, long way to go, average minute audience-wise, before they can be considered anything but a small scale add-on to a basic "linear TV" platform.

  2. Doug Garnett from Protonik, LLC, September 19, 2016 at 5 p.m.

    I appreciate at least having decent comparable numbers finally. The hype of "streams" around prior events were ridiculous.

    Heres what is really interesting:  Online purchases are at roughly 7% of total retail and that's in a pretty mature technology. These viewer numbers (early in the game) are at 1-4%.

    its quite a limb to leap out on... But there is a possibility that "digital enthusiasm" is limited below 10%. OR that the is an archetype of digital denizen that yells loudly, but is 4% of the population (say) and that there's another 4% of incidental digital activity. 

    In other words, digital stuff is used by everybody, but digital replacement of typical activities is limited below 10%.

    ok...proceed to cut off that limb. :-)

  3. John Grono from GAP Research, September 19, 2016 at 9:32 p.m.

    Doug, I had been thinking along those lines based on Aussie retail estimates.   (By retail I mean physical goods and services).

    It hadn't dawned on me that the one-tenth to one-fifteenth guideline seems to be applying in video (and audio? any data there?) consumption.

    So, at a macro level I'm liking your thinking.

    But.   There is always a 'but'.   How do we explain the cliff that newspapers and magazines have fallen off.   Here 'online reach' > 'physical reach' of a title (I can't source time-based usage).   Ad dollars are flowing to online.   Mastheads are holding on by (declining) newstand sales and subscriptions.   The 7%-10% rule seems to have been swept away for this medium.

    Any thoughts?

  4. Doug Garnett from Protonik, LLC replied, September 20, 2016 at 5:17 p.m.

    I don't know enough about the newspaper and magazine business. But here are some thoughts about Newspapers. (Magazines are different, need a different set of thinking...)

    • Newspapers in the US lost critical revenue entirely to Craigslist (from classified and their automotive sections). That loss defied my suggested 10% rule becuase it was so much easier to use Craigslist that over 50% of people went there.

    • Same with another source of revenue - movies, etc... And weather info. And...

    • In a sense, newspapers lost their role as source of important local information (not news) which was critical to their ad revenue. That lost a HUGE load of ad revenue.

    So if there's any value in stepping out on the 10% limb.. Maybe the issues is the difference between when the web solves a problem of major pain and when the web is "sometimes better, sometimes not".

    With classified, movies, and weather information, the web is vastly better both for searching to find something and for those placing the information.

    With purchasing things, for shopping a store is a hugely better than the web - in fact I HATE shopping online. I like to order things online when I need the convenience.

    When the web rocks is when (a) you know what you and and just want to get the order int or (b) you need to buy something very specific but it's very hard to be certain a store will have it.

    What about TV? My Comcast with TiVO is pretty damn good. In fact, it's better than streaming because it's a lot easier to control viewing with the TiVO. And I don't have to fight slowdowns in internet, etc...

    So with TV, like retail, online is only minimal advantage.

    Hmmm. Pretty solid on classifieds. Pretty solid on retail & shopping. Still pondering what consumer reality might make TV like shopping/buying.

  5. John Grono from GAP Research, September 20, 2016 at 5:37 p.m.

    I concur on what in Australia is called 'the rivers of gold; - classified advertising.    And with only four major publishers (News Corp being the biggest) a lot of that financial pain was centralised in just those businesses.   Now the print ad for the real estate is basically thrown in as a freebie!

    When I was buying my first home I'd go out for a meal and see a band, then drive to Fairfax and wait for the first edition straight off the press, read it, circle all the 'open houses' in my price range and area.   That way I knew what my 'schedule' for the Saturday viewings would be.   If there were none ... woo hooo ... off to see another band!   Now I get everything in-scope in my Inbox.  Basically homes and cars paid the salaries off all the journalists.    Ironically, community newspapers are still full of full-colour real estate listings so they dodged a bullet (but still owned by the big publsihers).

    Magazines have me flummoxed.   Less frequent publication cycle.   A beautiful glossy tactile product (not talking about the gossip rags here).   But recently the circulations of even the best magazines are showing pain.   Reading Vanity Fair online is not a patch on holding it in your hand.

  6. Doug Garnett from Protonik, LLC replied, September 21, 2016 at 4:51 p.m.

    A thought about Magazines... At least for me, I don't browse every magazine I get (and never have). So, at times they have felt like an obligation. Perhaps their value vs hassle ratio was out of whack.

    Once I believed that the value moved online (the articles), then I reduced magazine subscriptions. In truth, I don't get "better" content nor the depth I get by browsing a magazine. But since that wasn't a big part of my life, I don't need it much.

  7. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, September 21, 2016 at 5:20 p.m.

    Doug, broadly speaking, there are two kinds of magazines. One is a magazine that caters editorially to a particular interest---like fashion magazines to fashion buffs, boating magazines to boating buffs, car magazines to automobile buffs, etc. The other is more of a general interest magazine like "The Reader's Digest", "Time", "People", "Good Housekeeping" . Where many of the more targeted or "niche" books are still doing well in ad pages, this is a function of their still powerful---though declining---support by advertisers in the fields they cover, who regard it as a duty to support those magazines. This is especially true when the cable channels and the Internet, have not totally usurped the magazines' editorial functions with much timlier reporting and more coverage.

    In contrast, the general editorial magazines have taken the biggest ad page hits because their kind of advertiser is now defecting to digital venues as well as diverting magazine ad dollars to TV to pay for increased TV CPMs. Since the general magazines---as well as others---have been incredibly slow to develop timlier content exclusively for their websites so as to build up a strong digital audience that would appeal to advertisers by virtue of its attractive demos, they are stuck in an ongoing cycle of declining newsstand sales and ad page losses. The message is very simple. No matter how many readers the surveys report, many branding advertisers believe in video-style ads, not static print ads as the way to motivate consumers. If the magazines, via their websites, could sell video ads to large and receptive audiences, advertisers would buy.

  8. Doug Garnett from Protonik, LLC replied, September 22, 2016 at 4:58 p.m.

    Thanks, Ed. As we've been talking about magazines it seems that Harvard Business Review has done a nice job of balancing all this. As a subscriber I get the printed edition and full web site access. And their website is great - keeps an easily accessible list of what I've read online recently so I can go back to it... And a nice stream of fresh content. Also, if I weren't a paying subscriber they have a monthly limit of articles. Seems like they've hit a balance that works for them.

    Don't know if it would work many other places. Most of their content is not dependent on current events or season (and they clearly fit your niche' category). So a constant stream pipeline of articles can be set up even though there's fairly big lead time on each article. Not like a Field & Stream where the content would have to hit hunting/fishing seasons or fashion which has seasons.

    That said, it's nice to have someone doing it well.

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