- The National Football League's October ad sales revenue was up, with inventory totaling $757 million for a 3% year-over-year gain for the period, according to Standard Media Index (SMI) data cited in a report in Ad Age.
- SMI, which accrues its data from the billing of media agencies that account for 75% of all U.S. spending, determined that the average cost for an ad running in NFL broadcasts in October was $482,000 for a 30-second spot, according to Ad Age. This marks a 7% lift over the same average unit cost in October 2016.
- NFL ratings are still suffering despite the ad revenue boost: total viewership is down 7% year-over-year, Ad Age said, and household ratings are down 5%.
Speaking at a recent fireside chat, NBCUniversal's head of advertising Linda Yaccarino suggested that the NFL's growing association with political protests, where players kneel during the national anthem to raise awareness about police brutality, was ultimately starting to turn some advertisers off the league's brand and could be linked to lower viewership figures this year. That anxiety has been expressed by some brands as well, notably pizza maker Papa John's, which pinned its poor business performance last quarter on the anthem protests and questionable NFL management — comments the company has since walked back amid backlash, including by issuing an apology on Twitter.
SMI's analysis for ad sales revenue puts another dent in the theory that politics are seriously damaging the NFL, especially from a business standpoint. Though ratings for NFL broadcasts are down this year, a 3% year-over-year hike in total inventory for the October period is nothing to scoff at and points to how marketers still value destination TV content and are willing to pay a premium price to reach those audiences. For the time being, it's more likely that the lowered viewership stems from ongoing trends around cord-cutting and fans starting to favor digital streaming alternatives, including Amazon's broadcast of 10 Thursday Night Football games.
Looking at the long-term, it doesn't appear as though the NFL's ad performance will be seriously hindered for the remainder of the season, either. NBC Sports Group Executive Vice President of Advertising and Marketing Dan Lovinger recently said that the network is already commanding high advertising sales for next year's Super Bowl, expecting $350 million in revenue.