College Football, 'Comfort Food TV,' Account For Most QSR TV Impressions

Sports and old-school syndicated TV shows like “Friends” and “Everybody Loves Ramond,” received the most media impressions for QSR this year, according to the recently published 2023 Year in Review QSR TV Transparency Report by

Overall spend was down compared to 2022, an 8.3% decrease to $1.76 billion. Household TV ad impressions were 334.0 billion, down a slight 2.2% from 2022. Linear QSR ad minutes totaled 481,000, and the top three advertisers were Wendy’s (with 60.2K), Burger King (52.7K) and Subway (52.1K). The top three in QSR impressions were Burger King (10.98%), Subway (10.78%) and Wendy’s (8.49%).

While the NFL and other major league sports remain a QSR mainstay, 2023 saw a large uptick in college football, with more games broadcast equating to 22.7% more impressions for QSRs over 2022. Taco Bell was the largest QSR advertiser during prime-time sports in 2023, accounting for over 13% of TV ad impressions alone.

“QSR is very heavy on deals and price focus,” Analyst John Cassillo told QSR Insider. “So while there's benefit to appearing during those big NFL games or NBA games, it's equally important just getting [the message] out to the most people. It doesn't matter when someone sees it. If you just get in front of 100 people and even if 20 people follow through, that's enough.”

Sports may dominate for QSR, but top syndicated shows like “Everybody Loves Raymond” (93.2% more prime-time QSR impressions than 2022) and “Friends” (10.2% more than 2022) also garnered significant impressions. And prime-time programming actually delivered 4.7% fewer TV ad impressions for QSR brands over 2022.

“Quick-serve restaurants always like emphasizing reruns as a way to get more reach for less money,” said Cassillo. “The viewing behavior kind of changed during the pandemic and some of that stuck in terms of audiences going towards more comfort food TV. So especially with QSR brands, it's an easy way to get a pretty wide reach on purchase messaging.”

Just 20 brands represented nearly 99% of estimated national TV ad spend for QSRs, but less than 95% of ad impressions according to the study, with the rest accounted for by regional brands that targeted placements with local and streaming ad buys. Seventy-three percent of QSR brands on TV were only on local and/or streaming, mostly on “comfort food TV,” or the “lean-back, not lean-forward, type of programming,” said Cassillo.

Looking forward to 2024, Cassillo commented, “We can see a lot more change next year … The prime-time approach was kind of skewed a bit [in 2023], without as much scripted programming and the usual prime-time blocks for networks [because of the recent entertainment union strikes]. Since it was more sports-focused, you probably saw some brands go, ‘sports are maybe a little too rich for my blood. To this extent, I'm going to wait for that scripted show to come back on NBC next fall.’”


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