Ford leads the way
As one might expect, automakers came out in droves for last Thursday night's re-staging of Super Bowl 50, as car manufacturers accounted for more than a quarter of NBC's overall sales tally.
Newly-minted official NFL truck sponsor Ford ponied up for a pair of 30-second spots for its F-150 pickups -- football fans, prepare yourselves for yet another season of Denis Leary yelling at you about aluminum alloy bodies and government five-star ratings -- although legacy auto sponsor Hyundai sat out the opener.
Hyundai corporate sibling (and sponsor of NBC's "Sunday Night Kickoff" pre-game segment) Kia splurged on three :30s in support of its 2017 Sorento, while Mercedes-Benz, Jeep, Chevrolet, Toyota, Volkswagen and BMW also invested in their own in-game spots.
Part of the enduring appeal of "Sunday Night Football" lies in its unmatched reach in primetime. According to Nielsen live-same-day data, last season's Sunday night slate averaged a staggering 22.5 million viewers and a 13.0 household rating, which marked a 5 percent increase from the prior season.
Whereas every high-profile scripted series last season suffered significant ratings erosion -- TV's top-rated drama, "The Walking Dead," saw its C3 numbers drop 15 percent, while the No. 1 comedy "The Big Bang Theory" fell 14 percent -- "Sunday Night Football's" growth suggested that the NFL may well be the last remaining TV property that is immune to the ravages of changing consumer interests and demographic shifts.
Of course, "Sunday Night Football" is hardly the only game in town. In fact, it's not even the highest-rated NFL package, if you compare it to the Fox and CBS late-national games that kick off at around 4:20 p.m. ET on alternate Sundays. Last season, Fox's NFC-heavy slate averaged a whopping 27.4 million viewers and a 15.7 household rating, making it the most-watched, highest-rated show on TV, while CBS's complementary package was no slouch itself, with an average draw of 25.1 million viewers and a 14.6 household rating. By way of comparison, Game 7 of this summer's riveting NBA Finals drew a 15.8 household rating on ABC.
Given the huge numbers that Fox and CBS post on autumnal Sunday afternoons, the going rates for commercials in their respective late-game packages are predictably elevated.
According to buyers, Fox is charging around $741,811 for each 30-second increment in its eight-game juggernaut, which is replete with appearances by the NFL's two top-rated teams (Packers, Cowboys) and the Cardinals, who football junkies say have a real shot at representing the NFC in Super Bowl LI. CBS, for its part, is charging around $684,412 a pop for time in a stack of games that includes a clash of AFC antagonists New England and Pittsburgh and a Christmas Eve Cardinals-Seahawks scrum that has "playoff implications" stamped all over it.
As for the Fox and CBS games that kick off at 1 p.m. ET, pricing is more fluid and depends on individual match-ups, market size and household penetration. In other words, Fox charged a higher rate for time in its Sept. 11 Packers-Jaguars game, which was scheduled to air in as many as 34 states, than it did for its regional coverage of the Bucs-Falcons game. On average, :30s in the 1 p.m. broadcasts on both networks are priced at around $400,000 a throw, although that rate is said to swell to as much as $500,000 per spot in widely disseminated broadcasts like the aforementioned Packer-Jags game.
As for the remaining primetime packages, spots in ESPN's "Monday Night Football" are fetching as much as $465,000 a pop, while CBS's slimmed-down Thursday night offering is pricing in the neighborhood of $500,000. "Monday Night Football" last season averaged 12.9 million viewers and an 8.1 household rating, down a tenth of a point versus its 2014 deliveries. CBS's eight-game slate of Thursday night games, which were simulcast on NFL Network, drew 17.5 million viewers and a 10.9 rating.