Heading into the sixth weekend of the 2015 NFL season, the league's TV partners are reaping the benefits of football's unwavering popularity, raking in nearly $1 billion in aggregate ad sales revenue as ratings continue to climb.
According to iSpot.tv estimates, the five NFL broadcasters (CBS, NBC, Fox, ESPN, NFL Network) thus far this season have generated a staggering $942.5 million in in-game ad sales, up from $936 million in the year-ago period. (Bear in mind that the 2014 season kicked off a week earlier; thus, the networks this fall have managed to scare up more ad dollars in five weeks than they did last year in six.)
Among the season's top advertisers are: FanDuel, which has invested $44.1 million in NFL games since the Sept. 10 Steelers-Patriots opener on NBC; perennial big spender Verizon ($33 million); and DraftKings ($31.2 million). Together, the two daily fantasy sports (DFS) rivals have plunked down a cool $75.3 million to reach the NFL's unparalleled audience, although there are signs that both brands have begun pulling back on their overall TV spend. (DraftKings last weekend reduced its national TV spend by nearly 50%, while rival FanDuel's ad outlay was more or less unchanged.)
It remains to be seen if FanDuel and DraftKings will look to maintain a lower profile in light of a joint investigation by the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation into the legality of DFS. As it stands now, their combined NFL spend overshadows that of the three top auto sponsors; season-to-date, Toyota ($24.3 million), Chevrolet ($21.5 million) and Ford's ($20.5 million) NFL investments add up to $66.3 million.
The iSpot.tv estimates do not include on-air premiums such as presenting sponsorships, or pre-game/halftime/post-game branding opportunities. At the same time, the spend totals for each NFL broadcast are often padded by revenue allocated to local buys.
Since the season began, the top NFL broadcast sponsors in the QSR/fast food category are QSR: McDonald's, Subway and Wendy's. Leading the pack among brewers are Corona, Bud Light and Michelob, while the top insurance sponsors are Geico, State Farm and Nationwide.
If the DFS giants seem to have snapped up a disproportionate amount of in-game ad inventory -- on average, FanDuel and DraftKings air at least once a quarter in the national games -- the incursion of the new category doesn't seem to have shut out any would-be sponsors. According to iSpot.tv, no fewer than 434 brands have advertised in NFL games over the first five weeks of the season, up 63% from 266 in the year-ago period.
Those brands are all chasing the unparalleled reach of the NFL, which is far and away the highest-rated programming segment on TV. And the ratings are even stronger this season. Per Nielsen live-plus-same-day data, NBC's "Sunday Night Football" is averaging 24.4 million viewers and a 14.3 household rating, up 11% versus the year-ago 21.9 million viewers and a 12.9 HH rating. CBS's Sunday afternoon (1 p.m. and 4:20 p.m.) package is averaging 18.2 million viewers, which marks the network's highest five-week delivery in nearly 30 seasons, while Fox's late national games remain the biggest draw on the tube with an average turnout of 26.6 million viewers and a 15.3 HH rating.
Meanwhile, the CBS/NFL Network simulcast of "Thursday Night Football" is up 12% among total viewers (18.1 million) and in its guaranteed HH ratings (11.2), while ESPN's "Monday Night Football" is up a tick with 13.5 million viewers and flat in its HH rating deliveries (8.4).