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NFL Sees +2% YoY Growth in Ad Revenue Across Televised Games in September

October 23 rd 2017

When the NFL season kicked off in September, after a somewhat tumultuous 2016-2017 NFL season in terms of ratings and player scandals, there was much discussion around how advertiser participation would stack up in the new 2017-2018 season.

Analysis of our September data, gives us an answer that question – advertisers have stuck around, but not many have joined the field. At least in terms of revenue volume.

In September 2017, compared to September 2016, advertising spend across games on television networks increased by +2% – from $504M to $513M. This reflects in-game advertising, and does not include any revenue from pre – or post-game shows. Across all televised NFL games, commercial load grew by +2%. Meaning if a viewer watched every nationally aired football game, they saw around 15 more minutes of commercials than in Sept. 2016.

While revenue did increase slightly, we did see an increase in ADU allocation, or makegoods, across all TV networks that air NFL games. In Sept. 2016, ADUs made up 13% of all spots, while in Sept. 2017, ADUs accounted for 20% of all spots. While ADU allocation was higher – when you combine the increase in overall spots, with higher unit rates (which we’ll dive into next), you get the 2% increase in revenue that we’re seeing.


Across all networks, the average unit rate saw a +7% increase going from $482K in Sept. 2016, to $515K in Sept. 2017. We’ve broken down the average unit rate by network below. This includes all new, national games, and takes into account only spots that were paid for.


The last piece of the puzzle is looking at revenue by network to see how each NFL partner network, fits into the overall increase. As we do that, one thing we’d like to note, is that while there were the same number of nationally televised NFL football games, with a shuffle in schedules, some networks lost games in Sept. 2016 it had in Sept. 2017, meaning others gained some. We point this out because it’s an important part of understanding the ebb and flow of NFL advertising revenue.

  • The NFL Network saw a +96% increase in revenue going from $12M to $23M in Sept. 17, with the airing of one additional game, compared to Sept 2016.
  • CBS aired 2 less games in Sept. 17 than in Sept. 16 costing the network a -23% decrease in ad spend. This decrease is only due to the 2 fewer games, as unit costs increased across the network.
  • NBC saw a +12% increase in revenue going from $155M in Sept. 2016, to $174M in Sept. 2017. This is due to a slightly greater commercial load and, overall higher unit rates per game.
  • FOX saw its revenue from NFL games grow by +8% compared to Sept. 2016. The network aired one more National game in 2017 than 2016, contributing to this increase.
  • ESPN also increased its revenue by +4% compared to Sept. 2016. While the network saw a decreased unit cost, it increased its commercial load.

As the NFL season continues, lower ratings are prompting even more conversations, and many are asking when, or if, it will affect the advertising rates. As for September games, we saw business as usual, but will continue to monitor how the season unfolds.

Jennifer Rose

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