NBC paid a significant amount more to extend its rights deal to televise English Premier League soccer through the 2021-22 season, but ad sales and viewership for the current season, which began Aug. 8 and runs through May 15, are both sizably up over last season.
“We are very glad to have renewed our deal for six more years,” says Seth Winter, executive VP, sales and marketing, NBC Sports Group. “It’s significant live programming and ad sales are doing extraordinarily well.”
Winter says ad sales dollar volume is running about 5% to 6% ahead of last season at this same point, and that one month into the season, fourth quarter telecasts on NBCSN, NBC and USA network are nearly sold out.
Winter says for the entire season, which runs nine months and is the longest season of any of the televised team sports, he is expecting dollar volume for ad sales to end up with a double-digit percentage increase over last season.
The amount of upfront holds being converted to orders right now are up 50% over last season, Winter says, so marketers are buying and finalizing their commitments earlier. But he adds, "we are expecting even more advertisers to come in during the first and second quarters."
The strongest category by far, Winter says, is automotive, very similar to the NFL, where auto has also been the hottest advertiser category. And much like NBC’s Sunday Night Football telecasts, all of the Premier League telecasts are almost sold out for the season, Winter says.
While the audience is just a small fraction right now of the massive NFL audience, there are many, many more Premier League matches televised. This season, NBCSN will televise 150 matches, USA will televise 40 and NBC will air 25. NBCU’s USA is televising Premier League matches for the first time this season on Saturday mornings at 10 a.m. at the same time as another match on NBCSN.
Overall, across all of the networks, viewership is off to a record start after one month. According to Nielsen ratings, Premier League live match telecasts are averaging 540,000 viewers per match window, which is up 25% from this point last year.
The 10 a.m. Saturday window has increased viewership by 36% to 663,000 from 487,000 last season. Weekday afternoon matches on NBCSN are also off to a record viewership start, up 14% from last season.
In the 18-49 demo, the networks are averaging 287,000 viewers, up 6% from the same time last season, and up 22% from 2013, when the NBC networks began televising Premier League for the first time.
On the streaming side, NBC Sports Live Extra has so far garnered 63.8 million live minutes and 601,000 unique users, up 47% and 19%, respectively, from last season, and also on a record pace. And one month into the season, NBC Sports Live Extra has already recorded five of its seven most-streamed Premier League live matches ever.
Among the auto advertisers that have been regularly running commercials in the telecasts are Chevrolet, Mercedes, Lexus, Volkswagen, Toyota, Hyundai and Mini Cooper.
Winter says the higher-priced automakers, in particular, want to reach the Premier League telecasts’ audience. “The primary audience for the Premier League matches are men 35-45 with a median age of 38, who have incomes of between $85,000 and $100,000." The viewership is about 75% male and 25% female.
Other strong ad categories in the Premier League telecasts include financial services, insurance, beer and distilled spirits and fast food restaurants. Among the other advertisers are Geico, Liberty Mutual, Progressive, Kumho and Subway.
Winter says most of the advertisers are buying season-long packages and are also buying across networks and the streamed matches.
Local market ratings for all the matches last season on NBC and NBCSN were highest in Washington, D.C., New York, Columbus, Ohio, Denver, Philadelphia, Miami/West Palm Beach, Boston, Knoxville, Indianapolis, Dallas, Providence, Seattle, Albuquerque and Sacramento.
The new TV deal also gives NBC Spanish-language rights and multiple games are being shown throughout the season on Telemundo and NBC Universo, and also being streamed on the NBC Deportes En Vivo Extra app for mobile devices.
NBC paid $1 billion for its new six-year deal, up significantly from its current three-year deal, which ends after this season and cost $250 million. Mark Lazarus, chairman of NBC Sports Group, recently told the New York Times that NBC had not earned a profit through advertising during its current contract and that it will take some time to do so under the new contract.
However, Premier League will offer up 2,280 matches over the next six years, in addition to hours of related shoulder programming, and it is one of the mainstays of NBCSN, along with the NHL and NASCAR. And as Winter says, it gives advertisers a hard to reach, but desirable audience of upscale younger men on a consistent basis.
Winter believes there will be plenty of chance to grow the telecasts’ audience throughout this season and the next six. “There is so much momentum building for the sport of soccer and for the Premier League specifically,” he says. “This passionate fan base is starting to infiltrate into the U.S. culture.”