Record NFL Ad Revenue Could Result In League Scuttling Current TV Deals

The big reason the Denver Broncos recently sold for $4.65 billion and the value of NFL teams has grown to an average of $4.47 billion is the league’s ability to rake in ever higher amounts of TV advertising dollars.

Ad inventory for this NFL season is already more than 90% sold out across the networks at close to double-digit ad rate increases that could boost total TV NFL ad sales revenue close to $7 billion, according to an article in TVNewsCheck. “Advertisers are reportedly paying more than $850,000 for 30-second in-game commercials on NBC’s Sunday Night Football in many of the matchups, and also in the nationally televised Sunday late afternoon games on CBS and Fox, and those rates are expected to rise even more for remaining unsold inventory once the season begins and demand increases,” the article goes on to say.

Fox CEO Lachlan Murdoch addressed the subject on the company’s quarterly earnings call in August, according to TVNewsCheck. “He said that Fox sold more NFL Sunday ad inventory in this year’s up-front, at record pricing for the network, than it sold for both its Sunday and Thursday telecasts during the same period last year,” TVNewsCheck said.

This year’s increase will come on top of the league’s record $4.43 billion in 2021 ad revenue, which was 14% more than the 2020 season. The NFL’s advertising haul is even more impressive when you compare it with overall programming. A new report from MoffettNathanson estimates that advertising revenue for the broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC) will decline by 4% this year.

It’s easy to understand why advertisers lust for the NFL. In 2021, the NFL accounted for 39 of the top 100 telecasts of the year. No other sport came close. The Summer Olympics landed 14 spots, the World Series 3, NCAA basketball and college football 2 each and the NBA finals one. It was the same song during the first half of this year, with the NFL accounting for the top 14 spots among the most-watched sports programs.

The NFL inked new, long-term media deals in 2021 worth $112 billion (see table, below). But the league can opt out of its agreements with Disney, Fox, Viacom/CBS and Comcast after the 2029 season. Live sports is the lifeblood of these networks and the NFL the lead horse in sports. If this trend continues, it would appear that the rich bounty for the league a year ago will get even more lucrative.

To be sure, it’s still early in the game. And it was just a couple of years ago that the NFL experienced a drop in TV ratings and ad revenue. But the current trend bodes well for the league.