NFL keeps making more ad money, regardless of ratings woes: SMI

NFL Network and FOX both saw a decrease in their number of overall games. (Josh Hallett/Flickr)

The NFL may be experiencing somewhat of a ratings decline this season but the amount of advertising revenue it generates continues to rise, according to Standard Media Index.

Across all networks that televise NFL games, SMI said that revenue from ads rose 3% from $738 million in October 2016 to $757 million in October 2017. This applies only to in-game advertisements and not pre- or post-game coverage.

In the meantime, largely due to one less NFL game airing this October, ad loads during games were down 3% during the month even though the average number of commercials per game remained flat.


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NFL Network and FOX both saw a decrease in their number of overall games—each losing one national aired game. But there was one additional CBS Thursday Night Football game in October 2017 than October 2016.

“This is significant as a CBS Thursday Night Football game is worth approximately $27 million, while an NFL Network game—regardless of day or time—is worth closer to $10 million on average. That’s an additional $17 million in ad spend by changing networks. Combine that with a 27% increase year-over-year for an average 30-second spot on the remaining games on FOX, and you see the 3% increase,” wrote SMI in a blog post.

RELATED: NFL games draw 2% increase in ad spending during September, SMI says

Across all networks, the average unit rate rose 7% from $449,000 to $482,000.

SMI Chart
Standard Media Index

Despite the rise in both average unit rate and overall revenue, both NFL Network and ESPN saw less ad money during October. The NFL Network was down 65% because it aired one less game and experienced a decrease in average cost per ad. ESPN’s average unit rate declined and it had 4% more ADUs/makegoods, leading to an 18% decrease in revenue.

CBS however, benefitting from one additional game during the month, CBS’s revenue rose 15% from $230 million to $264 million. NBC saw a 9% increase due to a higher commercial load, and FOX saw big increases in average unit costs, lifting its NFL ad revenue 10% in October despite airing one less game.

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