The time suck of the 2020 presidential election coverage that drew viewers away from NFL games, the postponements caused by the coronavirus pandemic, backlash from some fans over the league’s social justice efforts, including its embrace of Black Lives Matter, have all contributed to the viewer erosion. Ad-free streaming services were also blamed for luring away the audience, as has the overlap with other sports like basketball and hockey that traditionally have ended before the NFL season starts.
The WSJ reported that some networks have considered letting advertisers pay less for commercials during NFL games and other programming. Compounding the problem is that what’s described as “a large amount” of the remaining commercial time available in games is being given to marketers as a make-good for poor ratings. That leaves little available to be sold.
NFL advertising is a bedrock of network revenue, which means the hit could cascade problems in other areas.
Thanksgiving, traditionally a strong day for NFL advertising, took a major hit when the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens game was moved from prime time because of Covid-19 hitting the Ravens.
“We’ve worked with every one of our partners individually to find what works best for them,” an NBC Sports spokesman told the WSJ. “We will have delivery solutions for all of our NFL advertisers this season.”
CBS said it isn’t adjusting ad pricing for its NFL broadcasts, the WSJ reported.
Through the first 13 weeks of the season, TV and digital NFL ratings were down 7% across the broadcast and cable networks, according to Nielsen data. Viewership in the 18-49 and 25-54 demos was hit even harder.