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For pro football fans, the springtime NFL (college player selection) Draft comes at just the right time of year with the 2015 Season a distant memory and the upcoming 2016 Season still several months away. Over the course of three days, the fate of all 32 NFL teams rests squarely on how well they play the draft game, which involves thousands of hours of scouting and maybe just a little luck as they select 260 football players from colleges and universities around the country.
The NFL Draft has a hypnotic hold on millions -- all you need to do is check out the thousands of mock drafts that begin in earnest months before the Draft even takes place. And if you’re a hard core “draftnick”, the entire matter boils down to the positional needs of your team versus the best player available (i.e., “value”) when your team makes its selection. In essence, then, reconciling “need” versus “value” is what the Draft is all about, and the most successful NFL teams play that game very well.
Last year’s Draft was a milestone for at least two reasons – it was the 80th year of the Draft, and for the first time in fifty years the draft was not held in New York City but rather the Windy City of Chicago. Moving the event west about 800 miles didn’t exactly help the ratings for the first night of the NFL Draft which were off from the record levels in 2014. But whether the change in venue hurt the ratings, or the prior year’s (2014) Draft was an aberration, is not entirely clear.
Which is not to say last year’s NFL Draft was a weak performer. Hardly. Between ESPN and the NFL Network, the Draft delivered 6 ratings points -- a significant increase over the three Drafts prior to 2014:
In spite of the fact that the 2015 Draft ratings were down from 2014, that didn’t stop ESPN from being the #1 Network during the four hours of the Draft on the evening of April 30th (the first night of the Draft):
The NFL Draft has a lot to offer advertisers -- not only does it attract a large, highly engaged television audience, it also appeals to upscale homes. Below are the U.S. household ratings for ESPN by income break. You can see that the ratings climb in an almost straight line fashion from low to high income homes:
Local Market Viewing Skews
There is an old, familiar pattern to local market viewership for the NFL Draft. Typically, DMAs that are home to NFL teams are strong ratings performers, as well as DMAs adjacent to NFL markets. And because football at all levels is held in very high regard in the South, southern DMAs also perform well:
When the Home Team has the Very First Pick
In our blog about the NFL Draft last year (https://viamediatv.com/blog/2015-nfl-draft) we quantified a local market ratings premium for the NFL hometown market that holds the #1 selection in the entire draft. As you can imagine, there’s a lot of buzz and excitement generated in the home town of the team that possesses the #1 overall selection. After all, the very first player selected (at least in theory) is the best player in the entire draft, and a tremendous amount of hope and optimism is riding on the pick.
We re-visited the analysis for the 2015 NFL Draft in which the Tampa Bay Buccaneers held the #1 selection (which they used, incidentally, to select the star quarterback from Florida State, Jameis Winston.)
Below are the Tampa Bay DMA and Total U.S. Ratings over the past five NFL Drafts (2011-2015.) We’ve included the Buccaneers’ first draft selection for each year (second column). Notice what happened in last year’s (2015) draft – the only time the team held the overall #1 selection. The Tampa Bay DMA rating indexed at 132, or 32% higher than the Total U.S. rating. In no other year had the Tampa Bay market rating exceeded the national rating:
Local Cable Advertising Demand
Over the past two NFL Drafts (2014 & 2015), local cable demand has been strong with over 140 local cable advertisers ordering 1,600+ 30-second spots over the course of just six draft days. On average, that comes to approximately 11 - 12 spots per advertiser spread out over 100 cable zones within 51 Viamedia markets (70% of our national footprint.) (Source: Viamedia internal analysis of B.I.G.SM database (Sports & High Profile Tracker module). Copyright © 2016 by Viamedia, Inc. All Rights Reserved.)
From an advertising category perspective, football (whether college or pro) is dominated by automotive advertisers and the NFL Draft is no exception with seven out of every ten dollars invested by automotive dealerships and manufacturers:
Glued to the TV Set
How important is the Draft to NFL teams?
Well, no team will ever get a sniff of the Super Bowl if they draft poorly, and look no further than my poor New York Giants – a team that hasn’t come close to the Super Bowl since the 2011 Season because they failed in the Draft to replenish an aging offensive line, not to mention numerous “swings–and-misses” on the defensive side of the ball.
Which is another way of saying that I'll be glued to the TV set – like millions of others -- (starting Thursday evening, April 28th) to see whether or not my home team will redeem itself in the 81st edition of the NFL Draft. And like so many other “Draftnicks”, I'll have my charts and statistics out, watching like a hawk as my team steps up to the podium to announce which players they’ve staked their entire future on.
For more information on Viamedia, visit www.viamediatv.com.
- Written by Jonathan Sims, VP Media Research, Viamedia