NBC Makes New Push For Ads In ‘Sunday Night Football’ Pre-Game

Football has long been some of TV’s most expensive programming for advertisers.  So NBC is making a push to remind Madison Avenue about the chance to run commercials in its pre-game coverage on Sunday nights, where a broad audience tunes in, but the prices for playing to them are not as dear.

The half-hour of “pre-kick” coverage that runs between 8 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. under the rubric of “Football Night in America” has seen viewership rise 10% both among viewers between 18 and 49 as well as total audience, according to data from Nielsen. Through three weeks, “Football Night’ is the fourth most-watched program on TV among viewers between 18 and 49, falling behind “Sunday Night Football,” “Empire” and “Thursday Night Football,” but staying just ahead of ESPN’s “Monday Night Football.” NBC broadcasts more “Football Night” before 8 p.m.

The price of a commercial that runs alongside that coverage can be considerably cheaper than the costs of running in the network’s “Sunday Night Football” franchise.

“We are having significant growth,” said Seth Winter, executive vice president of sales for NBC Sports Group. The average cost of a 30-second spot in “Football Night In America” is $135,716, according to Variety’s annual survey of primetime ad prices, but Winter suggests the price can run as high as $175,000 to $200,000, depending on the sponsor.  The average price of a 30-second ad in “Sunday Night Football,” meanwhile, is $637,330, according to the Variety study.

NBC’s sales pitch highlights the appeal of the so-called “pre-game,” when audiences for the main event are building, but are still of a size that warrants attention. Kia Motors, part of Hyundai Motors Co, sponsors the pre-kick segment on the NBC show, and fantasy-sports site FanDuel is new to the half-hour this season, Winter said. The viability of the segment got a demonstration earlier this year when General Motors’ Chevrolet ran an ad just before kickoff on NBC’s telecast of Super Bowl XLIX. The commercial made it seem as though the network’s feed from the stadium was disrupted by a technological glitch.

“The beauty of the pre-game event is that everyone is leaning in waiting for the game to start,” said Paul Edwards, vice president of U.S. marketing for the General Motors-owned car unit, in an interview with Variety at the time. “That was one of the most perfect moments we could have chosen.”

NBC is making its entreaty in a market that has decidedly more football programming than it did a few seasons ago. CBS’s “Thursday Night Football” has added eight games to the roster, and a 30-second ad in that broadcast – while still hefty – is significantly less than a similar piece of inventory in “Sunday Night Football.” The average cost of a 30-second spot in CBS’ Thursday-night broadcast is $462,622, according to the annual Variety survey.Not every advertiser can play in pre-game football. Generally speaking, said NBC’s Winter, advertisers in the pre-game “are tied to much larger packages of $20 million-plus or more” in “Sunday Night Football.” He estimated NBC had about six 30-second spots to sell each week in the pre-kick segment, and more inventory across the rest of pre-game coverage.

Winter attributed the rise of fantasy football for the increase in NBC’s pre-game ratings (Fox is also seeing new audiences for its pre-game coverage early this season). “There are a lot of people who play and enjoy fantasy football, and that makes awareness and interest in the game that much more acute,” he said.

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