The NFL earned a variety of headlines in 2016, for all manner of reasons. From Tom Brady's suspension to baffling officiating to the Rams being back in Los Angeles, football offered up a lot to talk about. Some of that talk was about the NFL's decline in TV ratings, though, and many speculated on what the meant for the future, but let it be known that whatever happens, networks won't be suffering as much as advertisers will. Regardless of ratings, NFL games generated a record $3.5 billion in ad revenue in 2016.
Yes, the NFL's long-standing power over TV viewers managed to draw $3.5 billion out of the various advertisers that work with the League and its network partners, which is a 3% rise over what it was in 2016, making it a record total. All that, despite an overall 8% drop in ratings for the year. Each of the networks that air NFL games naturally brought in a ton of dough, although a lot of that is actually offset by what the networks have to pony up for the rights to air NFL games. And it's not like advertisers are happy, but that's for another time.
Taking the top spot among networks is Fox, which sucked up $1.4 billion of that final tally. Fox's regular season rates were around $551,497 for 30-second spots, while the numbers spiked to uniform rates when the playoffs kicked in. (For the record, that's estimated at $713,000 for Wildcard, $970,000 for Divisional, $1.69 million for Conference Championships and $4.59 million for the Super Bowl.) It's a 48% increase over what Fox got in 2015, and you can probably imagine that had a lot to do with hosting this year's Super Bowl between the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons, which was a Gaga of a nail-biter that brought the first overtime period in Bowl history, which kept the dollar signs cha-chinging. Fox's "Game of the Week" contests on Sunday afternoons were often the most exciting of the week, so that definitely helped.
Next up is NBC, which got $909 million for the season, a 17% increase over the 2015 season. Part of that rise was due to the network getting in on the Thursday Night Football game, though those were the games that often raised the most discussion when lower ratings were concerned. According to Forbes, NBC was billing a massive $630,244 for its ad spots, given its hold on Sunday nights.
CBS took a 35% drop, definitely feeling the blows of not having the Super Bowl again, and was asking around $435,001 for its commercial spots. ESPN, charging $301,733 or so for its Monday Night Football ad spots, earned $263 million, which was a 4% decrease from 2015. ABC saw an 11% dip in the $22 million it earned for the one game aired on the network. Considering ESPN dropped just under $2 billion for rights to air MNF games, there seems to be more than just the advertisers losing out.
The NFL made around $5 billion total from the networks listed above, with another $2 billion or so from NFL Network, DirecTV and foreign contracts, so nobody is calling the League a loser here. Fewer people watching people does not mean fewer dollars are being watched by NFL execs and team owners. Will 2017 be another record year, or will advertisers smarten up?
While waiting for the next season to finally get here - I mean, it's been almost a MONTH with no football, guys - check out our midseason premiere schedule to see what's coming to the smalls creen soon.