- Viewership of NFL games on digital platforms has jumped 65% from 2017 through week four of the current season, the league said in a report. The average minute audience was 326,000 viewers per game window across different platforms.
- As an example, the NFL said that the Minnesota Vikings-Los Angeles Rams game on Oct. 4 had an average minute audience of 816,000 viewers coming from digital streaming across Amazon Prime Video, Twitch, the NFL's digital platforms, Fox Sports' digital platforms and Yahoo Sports. This marked an 86% increase from the 2017 10-game Thursday Night Football average, and also the highest-ever digital streaming figures for a Thursday night football game.
- The NFL has expanded access to digital platforms this season. All primetime games and Sunday afternoon local games can be viewed on mobile devices using the NFL app or Verizon media properties, including Yahoo Sports, through any wireless carrier. Viewers do no have to pay or log in to watch games. TV networks are also offering streaming for games on devices using authentication. Previously, mobile access was only for Verizon Wireless customers, and access via tablet required a pay TV subscription.
The NFL is having a bit of comeback after feeling a ratings pinch during the 2017 season, with TV viewership generally up over last year. The new report from the league shows how digital streaming offerings are helping to build on that positive momentum, and signal where the NFL might be thinking more about its future audiences as trends like cord-cutting continue to accelerate.
In the report, NFL representatives said the league plans to add more interactive, innovative features to digital broadcasts to draw in new viewers and enhance the game watching experience, which will likely be an appealing proposition for marketers looking for ways to promote their brands outside of often pricey broadcast TV buys. The league has also broadened the umbrella of what categories of brands can advertise during games, last year lifting a long-standing ban on liquor ads, albeit with strict rules around commercial placements and responsible messaging. Legalized sports gambling is also expected to cause significant shifts in the NFL advertising landscape, with betting sites like Fanduel and Draftkings seeing a resurgence in interest.
Sports fans, especially among younger generations, more frequently prefer to watch games on their own terms, and increasingly that means via mobile devices and streaming services. The number of audiences streaming on phones has increased 147% compared to 2017 and streaming via connected TV devices has grown 54%, according to statistics cited in the NFL report.
Live streaming viewers are more likely to engage with ads included with their content, such as pre-roll video or sponsored ads, according to recent research by the Interactive Advertising Bureau. Live streaming also helps viewers better remember the brands advertised, and makes it more likely for them to click on ads and visit brands' websites, the trade body found.
Marketers are recognizing the shift in how consumers access sports and other content and are investing more in over-the-top and connected TV to reach these viewers. Magna forecasts that ad spending on OTT TV will rise 40% to $2 billion in 2018, and mobile is expected to grow 30% to reach $70 billion.