The National Football League released its fall schedule last week with plans for the season to kick off on Sept.10. But, if the season cannot go ahead as planned, for NBCUniversal, which airs “Sunday Night Football,” “there is no perfect contingency plan,” Mark Marshall, co-president of advertising sales and partnerships, said on Wednesday during Ad Age’s two-day TV Pivot streamed event.
For NBCU, there's 'no perfect contingency plan' if NFL doesn't resume as planned: Ad Age TV Pivot
But if things were to go that route, Marshall said the company would handle it in a similar way to how they did when the Tokyo Olympics were postponed to 2021.
“In the middle of the third quarter, we had the Olympics, so we worked with advertisers to see how they wanted to move that money,” Marshall said. The company sought to try to figure out where typical Olympic viewers might migrate instead, which Marshall said includes everything from the evening news to “The Voice.”
Some advertisers simply rolled over their Olympic ad buys to 2021, while others rescheduled their locked-in commitments for later this year, arranging the timing to align with periods such as the back-to-school shopping season. For the most part, the network was able to fill the 17-day gap caused by the postponement of The Games with programs including “America’s Got Talent” and “World of Dance.”
Marshall said the NFL has been clear that there are different options and levels of flexibility, including starting the season later if need be. “Whether it’s a full stadium or half a stadium, hopefully everyone is watching [football] Sunday nights on NBC,” he said.
There is certainly a level of instability in the marketplace right now that’s causing marketers to walk back prior spending commitments.
“We’re in an uncertain time and everyone’s businesses are challenged in all sorts of ways,” Laura Molen, co-president of ad sales and partnerships, NBCU, said during the session. “We’re speaking to marketers, and there are some that need to take their inventory and give it back. But we plan for that every single year.”
Molen said there are other brands that are looking to increase their spend and that she is “most encouraged by the scatter market.”
Direct-to-consumer brands, in particular, continue to provide an opportunity for TV networks to expand their advertising base.
“A lot of d-to-c brands are coming in because this is their moment,” she says. “You take some of these food delivery services … so many other products that people need to be reliant on right now at home that are traditional d-to-c companies are looking to premium content and advertising to build their brands at a time where everyone is watching.”
“There are d-to-c brands that are struggling, but the ones that are coming in are seeing great momentum,” Molen added.