According to reports, the revenue generated by the networks televising NFL games is up again this year. For the first 5 weeks of the 2015 season, the total national TV revenue – this does not count the local TV deals that various individual local stations have with specific teams – totaled $947.7M from advertisers. Last year for the first 5 weeks, that total was 905.5M so 2015 revenue is up 4.67%. The NFL has encountered more than a bit of negative publicity in the last year with regard to Deflategate, domestic violence, bizarre on-field officiating calls and the like; none of that seems to have made its product less attractive to advertisers.
Deeper down in that data, I found that the largest single advertiser in terms of money paid for commercial spots in 2015 is FanDuel and they were not significant players in the advertising world even a year ago. Draft Kings is the third largest spender for advertising slots this year. Between the two of them, the two daily fantasy websites have spent $81M to buy time in the first five weeks of the NFL season during televised NFL games. While watching any NFL game, should you feel inundated with daily fantasy football ads, there is a good reason for that; the two sites have spent 8.6% of all the advertising money on that product.
By another measure, the NFL seems also to have weathered its storm of bad publicity. Ratings for the NFL games are up in 2015 once again. The largest gain in viewers is for Thursday Night Football which shows an increase of 10.4% in terms of the number of eyeballs on the screens. Here is the “measured” audience level for various NFL programming through 5 weeks of the 2015 season:
Sunday Night Football – 23.9 million viewers
CBS Sunday afternoon – 18.2 million viewers
Thursday Night Football – 18.1 million viewers
Monday Night Football – 13.2 million viewers
I can understand why MNF trails the field here since it is on a cable network and not “over the air TV”. I am a bit surprised at the difference between MNF and the other NFL programming but not nearly as surprised as I am at the rapid evolution of Thursday Night Football into a programming bonanza.
The NFL started Thursday night games in 2006 only for the second half of the season and telecast those games on NFL Network only. Since 2012, there have been Thursday night games for the full season and since 2014 the games are on both CBS and NFL Network. That is a very young product as compared to “Sunday afternoon football” which was the revenue source that made the NFL the TV juggernaut that it is. Nonetheless, the number of viewers is a dead heat as of the early stages of 2015…
Since I mentioned FanDuel and Draft Kings above, the fantasy websites have been under a bit of pressure recently – and I do not mean simply from TV viewers or Internet users who have been bombarded with the same ads over and over and over…
Memo to FanDuel and Draft Kings: If you are going to buy 20 advertising slots on Sunday NFL games over the 12 hours of their broadcast, you need to have more than 2 ads that you will have run. At some point, you make me want to throw a shoe at the TV…
There were allegations that some employees of the website may have used “inside information” on betting patterns to playa the daily fantasy games for themselves and several states – including Nevada – are investigating the business practices of the companies to determine if they are indeed “gambling” as opposed to “games of chance”. The Congress of the United States in its minuscule wisdom and as an attempt not to criminalize the six bazillion fantasy football and baseball leagues that exist in offices and families around the country declared that fantasy sports would not fall under the auspices of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) of 2006. That was a laudable move and a popular move; nonetheless, it now creates the situation where daily fantasy sports is not considered gambling whereas online poker is. Forget for the moment the legalities and the popularity of such games; they are both gambling; at the start of the “game” people put up some money and at the end of the “game” the one who has played by the rules and amassed the best outcome collects more money than he/she put in to start taking some or all of the money from those who had less than the best outcome.
Anyone who has read these rants for any length of time knows with certainty that I am not opposed to gambling. I am cynical enough to believe that with huge amounts of money at stake and the only interface between the bettors and “the pot” being a computer hooked to the Internet there is the opportunity for “shenanigans”. That applies to online poker, daily fantasy sports, and other wagering events. Recall that a group of folks hacked into a Breeders’ Cup Pick Six Pool and gathered for themselves the single winning ticket for that pool. That happened about 15 years ago and the prize then was on the order of $2M. Well, if FanDuel and Draft Kings can spend $81M between them in only 5 weeks just on advertising, you might expect that they are “handling” sums that are far in excess of $2M at any time.
My position on this matter has been simple and consistent for the last 30 years:
People are going to gamble. They may bet on sporting events or dice or cards but they are going to gamble.
Criminalizing gambling will have the same outcome as criminalizing alcohol did in the 1920s or drugs through until today. It will mean only that the profits from such enterprises will fall to criminals and that there will be no tax collected on said profits.
Finally, here are comments from two sports observers about a happenstance related to the form of gambling known as dog racing:
“Two greyhounds at Bluffs Run Greyound Park in Council Bluffs, Iowa, have tested positive for potential PEDs.
“Which probably explains why the hounds’ back legs started smoking at the starting line.” [Dwight Perry, Seattle Times]
“Two greyhounds at Bluffs Run racetrack in Iowa have tested positive for PEDs.
“Under questioning by authorities, one of the dogs said he didn’t ingest anything except regular Purina Dog Chow and water from his home toilet.” [Brad Dickson, Omaha World-Herald]
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………