NFL Draft Programming Provides Window Into The Health Of TV Sports

Over the next three days, NFL TV content will tackle the issue around the lack of high-level national TV programming. Will it show signs of life?

We’ll see what the NFL’s highly watched draft of college players will mean for the NFL’s televised regular season, intended to start in September, for viewing and advertising revenue numbers.

Early guessing for many: Expect more.

Mind you, the NFL draft isn’t any substitution for the big money advertising/high viewership levels of actual games. But versus other non-game sport TV programming, it still registers a sizable TV number.

Last year, the NFL draft drew a Nielsen-measured average of 6.1 million viewers across ESPN, ABC, The NFL Network and digital channels, reaching more than 47.5 million viewers over three days -- a 5% increase over 2018.

By way of comparison, regular season NFL games were up on average by 5% to 16.5 million Nielsen-measured viewers for NFL games across five networks: Fox, NBC, CBS, ESPN, and NFL Network.



In 2019, total national TV advertising dollars for those five networks, for the complete 17 game season, grew 10.6% to $2.7 billion, says Standard Media Index.

The average 30-second commercial unit cost for in-game advertising grew by 7.7% to $424,000 last year versus $394,000 in 2018. SMI says expect more of the same growth — should the league start its regular season on time in September.

One might figure even more, in a TV environment lacking all kinds of new TV programming. This includes not only the lack of live sports, but scripted and non-scripted programming and other genres. (The exception here being live news content from the you-know-what story dominating TV news and virtually all aspects of life on earth.)

This year’s three day event -- typically held in Las Vegas -- won’t be set in a big arena/theater full of screaming fans or with emotional football players going up to shake hands with the NFL commissioner.

Instead, there will be virtual video experiences of players and personalities at home or otherwise. Video of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will be coming from his home basement.

Figure the NFL -- perhaps versus other televised sports -- will probably make a strong attempt to play games with players on the field this season, all being tested regularly, playing in virtually empty stadiums.

No doubt, fans in stands can generated added level of excitement and interest. Even without that, imagine TV viewing and advertising demand will be, if not, at least stable versus a year ago, going up by some degree.

TV’s blocking and tackling has had big value for some time -- for viewers and marketers. Where does that media equation go from here?

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