Although NFL 2018 ratings recovered from major declines the year before, 30-second unit advertising on four TV ad-supported networks was down by double-digit percentages overall -- the first time there has been a decline in four years.
Media cost/analysis company SQAD says the average cost for a 30-second unit on a regular-season NFL game on CBS, NBC, Fox, and ESPN in 2018 “was at its lowest level last season since 2015.” This comes from SQAD’s MediaCosts:National database.
The highest-priced 30-second unit cost was for NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” at $599,199 -- down 9% from $656,080 in 2017.
The second-most costly 30-second unit price was Fox’s airing of its NFL NFC games at $462,728 -- 17% lower than the total of $558,555 in 2017. Fox airs NFL’s “Thursday Night Football” and its NFL’s Sunday afternoon NFC games.
CBS, airing the AFC games, was next at $393,356 for 2018 -- 16% lower from the total of $470,310 in 2017. Cable network ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” was at $236,047, sinking 14% from its total of $273,103 in 2017.
NFL’s own NFL Network was the only national TV network to see a gain versus 2017 -- up 7% to $101,289 from $94,516.
NFL total viewership on five ad-supported networks was up 4% in 2018 versus the year before as measured with Nielsen 15.6 million average viewers. The year before, the league posted a near 10% viewership decline versus 2016.
Although viewership perked up a bit last year, some analysts believe lower NFL pricing could be the result of longer-term viewing softness -- as well as some effects of pay TV cord-cutting by consumers.
A year ago, Standard Media Index said for roughly the first half of the NFL season -- September and October -- total NFL TV ad revenue fell 19% due to 6% fewer 30-second commercials in 51 games.