2016 College Football
It usually happens sometime around mid-August – at least here in the northeast. All of a sudden you’ll catch a glimpse of a maple or an oak with just a patch of color. And then you’ll notice a slight chill in the morning air and darkness descending just a little earlier with each passing week. And you’ll find yourself asking: Where in the world did the summer go? (A question rarely, if ever, asked of winter.)
But for those who have a certain dread of the approaching end of long days and warm summer nights, perhaps you’ll find (like myself) some solace in the fact that college football is right around the corner, and that by late August we’ll all be treated to a vast array of college games brought right into the comfort of our own home.
Welcome to the start of the 2016 College Football Season – a time of sheer rapture for millions and millions of fans across the country. And fanning the excitement week in and week out is ad-supported cable television that airs dozens of games every week from the waning days of August, to the crisp, cool days of December. Based on our analysis of comScore data for ESPN and ESPN2, viewers were treated to a record number of Live telecasts last season – 146 games (versus 131 games three seasons ago):
While ESPN and ESPN2 rule the roost for live college football games, they have plenty of company. Between FOX Sports 1, the Big Ten Network and the SEC Network (to name just three), fans across the country are treated to numerous additional games every week. Given all the collegiate gridiron content on ad-supported cable, the two mainstays (ESPN and ESPN2) show no real sign of audience erosion, which is all the more remarkable given the overall decline in traditional TV viewing over the past three seasons:
The nationwide ratings we’ve documented above are just that – “nationwide”, which obscures the attraction of college football at the local market level (when hometown market teams are playing.) Below are just a few examples between in-state rivals that drove local viewing to a frenzy! For each of these games, the three highest rated DMAs all fell within the home state of the rival teams. Take, for example, the November 28th, 2015 game between Florida and Florida State, which pulled down a respectable 3.08 national U.S. household rating. And out of 200+ DMAs, the three highest rated ones were Tallahassee, Panama City and Gainesville – all within the state of Florida. The Tallahassee DMA, for example, pulled down a 30 household rating – nearly ten-times the national average:
When it comes to attracting upscale homes, ESPN has always been at (or near) the top of the heap, and college football is no exception. We took a look at U.S. household ratings by income classification and (as can be seen below) the ratings rise to a peak of 2.55 for homes with income $175,000 - $199,999:
Local Cable Advertising Demand
You can practically take a random walk through our internal traffic and billing records and come away with some “wow” metric documenting the growing demand for college football by local cable advertisers.
One of the more dramatic figures is the average dollar investment Viamedia clients have been willing to make in the college game. Taking the 2011 Season as the base year, the average amount our clients invested in 2012 rose 17% (i.e., 117 Index). By last season (2015), the index stood at 155:
Over the past two college football seasons (2014 & 2015), over 1,100 local cable clients ordered nearly 40,000 30-second spots across 63 Viamedia markets. That comes to 30 spots per client. And when we confine our analysis to the 56 Viamedia markets that exhibited advertising in College Football over the past two seasons, we find a 10% growth rate in total ad investments driven entirely by an increase 30-second commercial units. (Source: B.I.G.SM database -- Copyright © 2016 by Viamedia, Inc. All Rights Reserved)
When it comes to football – either professional or collegiate – the automotive category is far and away the number one television category, and local cable is no exception to that rule as Viamedia auto clients (manufacturers and dealerships) accounted for over half of all ad dollar investments across the past two seasons:
College Football Fever
By the time summer officially ends on September 22nd at 10:21am (EST), the college football season will already be almost a month old! And from what we’re seeing from recent trends in comScore ratings, as well as our own internal sales records, college football will be heating up just as the late summer temperatures begin to fall. And raising the temperature even further --millions of students and alumni alike gripped in football fever that knows no bounds.
— Written by Jonathan Sims, VP Market Research, Viamedia