A new saying about TV has cropped up in this era of time-shifted viewing and on-demand behavior: People don’t watch TV networks; they watch TV shows. Perhaps the same might be true of advertisers as well.
Toyota Motor’s Lexus will sponsor the halftime show of “Thursday Night Football” no matter where the show airs, which this season will include the NFL Network as well as both CBS and NBC. CBS and NBC are each scheduled to broadcast five of the National Football League’s Thursday-night games in 2016. Each match-up will be simulcast on NFL Network.
The arrangement highlights the unusual nature of the program, which has run on CBS and NFL Network for the past two seasons. “Thursday Night Football” will switch broadcast networks halfway through its run in the fall of 2016, and one of its main advertisers will move with it (two different advertisers are expected to sponsor the program’s post-game segment). While the NFL clearly has its own arrangements with advertisers, in many cases the network doing the broadcasting has direct control over selling pre-game, post-game and halftime ad berths.
The NFL clearly expects the audience for the games to make the jump. “There are a couple of things in the past few years that told us this consumer confusion, while a risk, didn’t overly concern us. When we did ‘Thursday Night Football’ with CBS, where we put half the games on CBS and half on the NFL Network, what we saw that consumption on both platforms went up,’ Brian Rolapp, the NFL’s executive vice president of media, told Variety earlier this year. “People will find it. In a world where things are so fragmented and NFL football is maybe the only thing that can aggregate large audiences, they will find it. Between having a broadcast component and a pay-TV component and a digital component, people will find it.”
Lexus is renewing a previous deal. The automaker will be the half-time sponsor for its fifth season, though is the first time the luxury car will have a presence across three different networks as part of the agreement.
“The Lexus Halftime Show sponsorship on ‘Thursday Night Football’ gives us the opportunity to reach a premium, live-viewing audience in a contextually relevant way by incorporating high impact NFL content,” said Brian Smith, vice president of marketing for Lexus, in a prepared statement. “We’re pleased to renew this partnership, which now also includes NBC in the Thursday night franchise.”
“Thursday Night Football” on CBS and NFL Network and local stations averaged 13 million viewers last season, a 61% increase from 2013, when 13 Thursday-night games were broadcast solely on NFL Network. The NFL has been clear that it wants to use the games to drive viewership to its cable outlet, which is launching more non-game programming including documentary programs and reality shows, and to test new ways of reaching audiences more accustomed to streaming video on demand.
Lexus may have a presence elsewhere, thanks to recent NFL negotiations to transmit the games across digital media. Twitter won rights to stream the 10 Thursday games to a base of more than 800 million registered and non-registered users worldwide on mobile phones, tablets, PCs and connected TVs. CBS and NBC will each stream their games to authenticated pay-TV customers. CBS games will be available via CBSSports.com and the CBS Sports app, and NBC games will be available via NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports Live Extra app. All game telecasts also will be streamed live on the NFL Mobile from Verizon app, the NFL app on Xbox, and through Watch NFL Network on tablets, PCs and various connected TV devices.
Lexus isn’t the only advertiser that will get exposure on three different TV networks. Anheuser-Busch InBev’s Bud Light is the presenting sponsor of the games, which will be known as “Thursday Night Football presented by Bud Light,” no matter which TV team is doing the play by play.