NFL football games on a kids programming network sound like an optimozed way to grab a bigger universe of premium TV viewers and subscribers -- especially in a world of traditional pay TV cord-cutting.
A special NFL wild card simulcast game -- Chicago Bears-New Orleans Saints -- aired two ViacomCBS networks, CBS and Nickelodeon last weekend, pulling in an average Nielsen-measured 30.7 million viewers -- 28.6 million for the CBS TV network and 2.07 million viewers for Nickelodeon.
Doesn’t sound like much of comparison. Still, for Nickelodeon, which targets mostly 2-11 and 6-11 young children viewers, this was a big deal. Total viewers for the game were the network’s best results for a TV show in four years.
With ever-higher sport TV rights fees, shared distribution -- simulcasting airing multiple TV networks -- could be a key for future growth.
Currently, we have already seen the NFL do year-long “simulcast” deals with the Fox broadcast network and the NFL’s own NFL Network for “Thursday Night Football.”
In a somewhat modified approach to TV viewer sharing, CBS and TNT have, for nearly a decade, co-owned the TV sports rights to the NCAA March Madness event, the men’s college basketball tournament. The original deal started in spring 2011, and with new deal extensions running through 2032.
CBS and Turner networks -- TNT, TBS, and truTV -- split the airings of games in the big tournament, which can total 67 games. They also take turns airing the Final Four and championship games.
Other season-long deals among major TV networks work in similar, yet different, fashion. For example, the NFL has TV network deals with five networks: Fox, NBC, CBS, ESPN and NFL Network.
Sports TV rights fees are expected to continue to escalate -- especially the next round of multiyear NFL TV contracts, which are set to start negotiations soon. (Deals will end after 2022.) More simulcasting of sports TV networks might help, lessening sports right fees for each network.
TV networks already call some sports TV deals -- especially with the NFL -- barely break-even or even money-losing propositions. And it looks to get worse, with a decreasing number of traditional pay TV subscribers.
At the same time, there are continued massive revenue to be made overall for TV networks -- via pricey carriage/retransmission fees charged by networks to distributors and TV stations because of that high-priced sports content. Also, consider the overall promotional, viewership and benefits to networks.
Nickelodeon got that. And considering the sharp decline of linear TV viewership affecting virtually all kids networks -- an eye-popping 30% or more viewing losses among key kids viewers -- the network will take all the help it can get.
But what’s the next step? WWE wrestling? Mixed-martial arts programming?