When TV ratings dipped last year, the networks and the league didn’t fret because the advertising revenue hadn’t been affected. It may now be time to fret.
According to Advertising Age, via SportsBusiness Daily, ad sales for NFL games in the wake of the May “upfronts” have been sluggish. Specifically, automobile companies and movie studios have been buying less space than usual.
None of this means that any of the networks are soiling their nether regions, yet.
“Look, we have done hundreds of millions in sales, so it’s not like we’re facing some kind of do-or-die scenario in September and October and November and December,” an unnamed network insider told Anthony Crupi of Advertising Age. “We expect there will be a robust scatter marketplace — we’ll certainly need it — but it doesn’t have to be gangbusters. So, no, we’re not panicking, but we understand that we’re going to be doing a little more hustling than maybe we’ve grown used to in the fall.”
Regardless of how it turns out, it’s worth watching. Networks justify the billions they pay for NFL games by pointing to the ad money that offsets those costs. Which could make it even more challenging for the league to get the money it will want in the next round of TV deals — unless sports wagering is legalized and the states adopt it quickly, resulting in gaming companies dumping billions more into the advertising marketplace.