Is the NFL suffering from oversaturation?
That is a question asked a lot last year when the NFL’s TV ratings dropped, although the league blamed first-half plummet on all the interest in the presidential election.
That’s why the ratings will be watched closely this year.
But it’s not the only barometer the NFL and its broadcast partners will be watching. The league also has to be concerned that advertisers aren’t rushing to make buys even before the season begins.
According to Advertising Age, some insiders say the ad buys are the softest since the 2008 recession.
This has to be kept in perspective. The NFL is still the most watched product on TV in the era of fans having 500 channels to watch. And nothing else is even close. Last year, 28 of the top 50 shows were NFL games in an Olympic year when the league was competing with the election. In 2015, it was 37 of 50.
And 93 percent of all sports TV viewing was done live, compared to 70 percent of the general-entertainment shows on TV.
I usually don’t start watching NFL games on TV until an hour after kickoff so I can zip through the ads, instant-replay reviews, extra points and two-yard runs. But then I’m the exception to the rule. Most fans watch it live and put up with the commercials.
Still, the NFL is having a soft market, even though advertising prices have gone up just two-to-four percent. Except on Fox, which boosted prices six percent, mainly because of the popularity of the Cowboys.
The NFL and the networks are still hoping that money will come rolling in during what it calls the “fall scatter market’’ after the season has started.
But auto companies and the movie industry haven’t plunged into the market the way they used to.
According to iSpot, the carmakers spent $889.3 million on the NFL last year. That is double what the runnerup wireless spent, which was $338.5 million. The movies were sixth last year.
Ad buyers are apparently switching some of their money to shows like “Today’’ and “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.’’
Advertising Age says one problem is oversaturation. There is too much NFL football on TV.
That hasn’t stopped the NFL from selling more. Its $50 million streaming deal with Amazon means 100 more ads are for sale — 10 per game. And there are also the four nationally-televised Saturday games.
That means NFL football will be shown on three days a week for 13 weeks and four days for four weeks.
The league also doesn’t have enough good matchups because there aren’t enough good teams nor enough stars. And the most successful team, the Patriots, are unpopular with fans outside New England.
Advertising Age pointed out that sales were sluggish in June in 2015, but then rebounded in September.
A rebound this year is looking dicey.