Ford, Visa, DirecTV, Motorola and Lowe's on Board as Fox NFL Sponsors


DirecTV and Motorola have signed on as sponsors of Fox Sports' NFL coverage for the coming season, joining Ford, Visa and Lowe's, who have reupped their sponsorship of specific segments of the telecasts, according to sources familiar with the network's negotiations.

Ford will be the
sponsor of the Fox NFL Sunday pregame show for both its doubleheader and
single national games. Visa will be the halftime show sponsor for both. DirecTV
will be the sponsor of game breaks during the month of September and Motorola
will sponsor the game breaks during the October NFL telecasts. Lowe's will be the
sponsor of Fox's Sunday postgame NFL show The

As reported last
week, Fox, like most of the other NFL TV partners, is just north of 85% sold
out of its regular season NFL commercial inventory. Sources said Fox has not
finalized deals for its game breaks for November and December.

Through the first
two weeks of the NFL preseason, ESPN has televised three national games, Fox
has televised two and NBC has televised one, while CBS has yet to televise a
national NFL game. That will change this weekend during week three of the preseason,
where CBS will televise a national game on Friday at 8 p.m. -- the Chicago
Bears vs. the New York Giants -- and on Saturday at 8 p.m. -- the Houston
Texans vs. the New Orleans Saints.

Week three of the
preseason kicks off Thursday night when ESPN televises a game between the
Arizona Cardinals and the Tennessee Titans at 8. On Sunday afternoon, Fox will
air its third preseason game at 4 p.m. when the San Francisco 49ers play the
Peyton Manning-led Denver Broncos. And on Sunday at 8 p.m., NBC will televise
the Carolina Panthers vs. the New York Jets.

Ratings in the
preseason have been mixed. ESPN's three game telecasts so far have averaged 4.5
million and a 1.9 18-49 rating. If you eliminate its one Thursday night game,
however, and include just the two Monday night games where it televises its
regular season games, the numbers jump a little to a 5.2 million viewer average
and a 2.1 18-49 rating. Last regular season, ESPN averaged 13.3 million viewers
for its Monday Night Football

Fox, in its first
two preseason telecasts, has averaged 4.4 million viewers, down 28% from the
first two preseason games last year when it averaged 6.5 million. Its two-game
18-49 rating is 1.5, down 35% from last year's 2.3. One Fox insider said,
"We've had lousier matchups this preseason compared to last year, but no
one goes to bat to get better preseason games."  Fox averaged 20.1
million viewers for its regular season Sunday games last season, and regardless
of preseason viewership, is expected to come close to that average again this

NBC televised its
first NFL preseason game last Sunday night and drew the largest audience in the
preseason so far. Its telecast of the Indianapolis Colts with its much-lauded
rookie quarterback Andrew Luck vs. the Pittsburgh Steelers drew 9.5 million
viewers and a 3.2 18-49 rating. Last season, NBC averaged 21.5 million viewers
per Sunday night telecast, so its first preseason audience was a solid 45% of
that average.

CBS appears to have
the two most appealing games this weekend with last season's Super Bowl champion the
New York Giants playing the Chicago Bears on Friday night and 2010 Super Bowl
champs the New Orleans Saints playing the Houston Texans on Saturday night.

What could add to
the viewership of these national telecasts is that the third week of the
preseason is when the teams usually play their starting players for most of the
game. Then in the fourth and final week of the preseason, most teams rest their
starters to avoid any last-minute injuries before the start of the regular
season. Interestingly, with CBS, NBC, Fox and ESPN realizing that, none of them
will be televising a week four preseason game.

What makes those
fourth-week games even more unappealing to the networks is that three of them
will be played on Wednesday, Aug. 29, and the remaining 13 will be played on
Thursday, Aug. 30. That is because the regular NFL season opens on Wednesday, Sept.
5, with the annual NFL kickoff game. The remainder of the opening week games
then falls into the standard regular season schedule played and televised on
Sunday, except for ESPN's weekly Monday night game.

NBC will
televise the kickoff game on Sept. 5 when the Dallas
Cowboys play the New York Giants. Last year's kickoff game on NBC
between the Green Bay Packers and New Orleans Saints drew 27.2 million viewers.