NFL Ad Sales Reach Record Highs Despite Labor Disputes

While fans are busy obsessing over NFL free agency, television ad sales for NFL games this fall have reached new levels, with network executives saying they’ve already sold between 80% and 99% of their regular-season ad schedules, even with spots costing more than ever.

While the recent news that the NFL’s labor disagreements are being resolved, and the coming season should go ahead as previously scheduled, is good news for both networks and advertisers, the last four months of uncertainty didn’t stop advertisers from buying advertising spots during the regular season. The only sales that were hurt by the the labor situation were for the pre-season, which still has a lot of open spots.

Advertisers were taking a gamble in buying ad spots without any assurance there would even be a professional football season this year, and that just goes to show what a hot commodity those NFL spots have become. Of course, most advertisers would have gotten their money back for any games that weren’t played, but they would have already committed large parts of their budgets to those games that could have been spent elsewhere. But NFL games make up some of the highest-rated programming on television, making them worth the risk to advertisers. According to Tom McGovern, managing director of Optimum Sports, “The NFL is incredibly hot right now…It’s the new prime time.”

NBC (NASDAQ:CMCSA) is cashing in the most this year, as it has the broadcast rights for the next Super Bowl. While no official figures have been released, sources have advertisers committing over $3.2 million for a 30-second spot. When Fox (NASDAQ:NWSA) had the Super Bowl last year, it sold 30-second spots for about $3 million, completely selling out by October. NBC is on track to meet or beat that this year.

So far, NBC has sold about 85% of its schedule for the regular season, and Fox has reported selling about 85% of its spots as well. Automotive advertising is the category doing the most business, at least for CBS (NYSE:CBS), which has sold about 80% of its spots. Insurance and beer also make up a significant portion of NFL advertising.

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