NFL Lockout Worst-Case Scenario: $3 Billion in Network Ad Revenue
Amid a season of record-high ratings, the potential crisis could be devastating.
Sunday night’s Philadelphia Eagles/Dallas Cowboys game -- a fourth-quarter nail-biter -- was another high note in an NFL season marked by record tune-in. The game gave NBC its best overnight rating in Sunday Night Football history and its best primetime NFL rating in 12 years.
But as the 2010 NFL season chugs along on track to become the league’s most-watched in years, the NFL and the player’s association are embroiled in a labor dispute that could jeopardize the 2011 season.
At stake: billions in ad revenue for the networks that carry the games (CBS, ESPN, Fox, NBC and the NFL Network); the halo effect that those games have on related programming (what would they talk about on SportsCenter?); merchandising (forget about Madden NFL12); and the $5 billion Fantasy League business without its most popular fantasy players.
"The void would be impossible to fill," says Brad Adgate, senior vp research at Horizon Media. The NFL, he adds, is "far and away the most popular sport on television. There’s nothing in this multichannel, multiplatform world that could possibly come close to replacing it."
Indeed, the NFL has the top two programs in primetime this season (in the ad-centric 18-49 demographic): NBC’s Sunday Night Football and ESPN’s Monday Night Football. So far this season, NBC and Fox are each averaging more than 20 million viewers per game, according to live-plus-same-day ratings provided by Nielsen. CBS is averaging 18.5 million viewers for its Sunday afternoon games. And ESPN is clocking 14.4 million for MNF.
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