The Big Game's Fumble: Missed Opportunities On Connected TV

  • by , Op-Ed Contributor, February 8, 2018

There is no question that Sunday was a big night for Eagles fans everywhere. But for the digital publishers streaming the game and the brands advertising during it, there’s only one score from the game that really matters: $414 million. 

That’s the projected advertising revenue generated during the game’s broadcast on NBC Super Bowl Sunday. Did NBC maximize its revenue?  Did brands maximize the value of their creative message?  It’s possible that the answer to both questions is TBD.

Sunday’s game represented a crucial opportunity for digital advertising.

It offered a chance for publishers to maximize the value of their connected TV inventory,  brands to reach their audience with high impact messages, and consumers to receive relevant advertising. But instead of a triple win, the industry fumbled.

According to Nielsen, although the Big Game had a 7% drop in viewership from last year’s game, averaging 103.4M viewers, Sunday’s game was still the most live-streamed ever. It delivered an audience of 2.02 million viewers per minute across a number of apps, including the NBC Sports app,,  En Vivo app,  NFL Mobile from Verizon, the Yahoo Sports app, and go90. 



Yet throughout the event, the 2 million fans streaming the game often found themselves staring at a static screen during many commercial breaks.

Admittedly, there are some structural challenges with delivering dynamic ad insertion in a live-stream environment, but the bigger picture is clear. A blank slate on anyone’s screen during the Super Bowl is the equivalent of a lost fumble in the red zone with the game on the line.

The Trade Desk’s internal viewing team crunched the numbers, and of the roughly 30 commercial breaks scattered throughout the game, nine of those breaks included unfilled commercial slots. In other words, nearly 30% of ad slots missed out -- brands missed out on 2 million viewers and NBC missed out on advertising revenue. There was even a commercial break around 9:20p.m. ET that ran no ads at all in New York City.

So, what happened?

As one of the most anticipated and expensive advertising events of the year, it’s surprising that publishers and advertisers allowed this massive opportunity to engage a valuable and growing audience pass them by. Sure, connected television still represents a growing portion of the population, but it’s growing fast. And the opportunity to capitalize on that audience is here and now.

The fact that almost one-third of ads on streaming apps went unfilled during the Big Game represents a perfect opportunity to revisit the long-standing selling methods of TV selling, or specifically, the Upfronts.  

While the Upfronts have been extremely effective in selling traditional TV inventory over the last several decades, Connected TV is a new and unique opportunity for publishers to monetize their digital content. It’s one that can only be leveraged through the real-time technology of programmatic advertising.

As evidenced by the lower ratings score for this year’s game, media consumption is continuing to fragment between traditional and digital television viewing options. It’s no longer guaranteed that you’ll reach a specific and engaged audience at precisely the time of the broadcast 

People are deciding, sometimes at a moment’s notice, whether to stream the game at home, watch on cable at a bar, or just check it on their phones. 

Enter programmatic advertising. Programmatic technology changes the game for advertising on digitally-streamed content – emphasizing specific targeting with audience insights instead of demographics, providing an auction to deliver the best price on scarce inventory, and granular audience data to use across your other digital channels.

The publisher gets the most out of their ad real-estate, the brand engages their specific target audience, and the consumer gets more relevant advertising.


1 comment about "The Big Game's Fumble: Missed Opportunities On Connected TV".
Check to receive email when comments are posted.
  1. Lori Williams from LW Marketing & Media, February 8, 2018 at 12:20 p.m.

    I'm thinking the screen when blank during the local ad breaks? This definitely could have opened up opportunities to sell that inventory nationally to the 2MM digital viewers or perhaps created additional local sales opportunities.  Either way you're right, it was a missed opportunity. 

Next story loading loading..