Networks Could Lose Millions In Sports Advertising, With Big Hits To NBA, NHL, NCAA

Major sports on TV networks could see big hits, with millions of advertising dollars in jeopardy, if game cancellations continue due to coronavirus concerns -- especially for the NBA and NHL.

Both leagues  -- the NBA on Wednesday night and NHL on Thursday -- said they are suspending regular-season games temporarily.

Around $700 million in advertising deals would be lost to ESPN, ABC, and TNT should the NBA cancel the rest of its season, according to MoffettNathanson Research. On Wednesday night, the NBA said it is suspending the season “until further notice.”

MoffettNathanson says Disney’s ESPN could lose around $241 million for the rest of the regular season, with ABC giving up $240 million for expected NBA playoff games. TNT could lose an estimated $211 million in advertising for the rest of the season, including playoffs.

For all of 2019, Walt Disney networks collectively pulled in $884 million in advertising revenue.

Twenty-one percent ($644 million) of ESPN’s total advertising revenues ($3.03 billion) comes from NBA programming, with 36% of TNT’s total advertising revenue ($1.55 billion) coming from NBA programming ($562 million).

Concerning the potential advertising loss, Michael Nathanson, media analyst of MoffettNathanson Research, writes: “It seems clear that advertisers would not be charged for units that never run. Given the premium value of these commitments, we would assume that advertisers would not move these commitments into regular run of schedule[d] ad buys."

“Due to the importance of high profile sports to these ad buyers, we have a hard time seeing why and where these dollars would be re-deployed.”

For the NHL, national TV advertising on NBC, NBCSN and NHL networks is estimated to have pulled in around $85.4 million so far this year, says iSpot.tv.

Last year, national TV advertising from all NHL national TV exposure pulled $559.8 million, per iSpot.tv, from all regular-season and playoff games.

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