No major chunk of ad dollars from DraftKings and FanDuel for this season’s NHL and NBA telecasts, no problem for the Regional Sports Networks.
Craig Sloan, executive VP of Home Team Sports, which sells national advertising for the Fox RSNs, some Comcast RSNs, MSG and NESN, says the absence of the once big-spending daily fantasy sports companies has been compensated for by new major advertisers, increases in spending at the RSNs televising games of some of the more popular teams, an influx of political advertising in battlegrounds states like Florida and Ohio, and the addition of streaming NHL telecasts for the first time at 11 RSNs.
“We’re actually running a couple of percentage points ahead of last year in ad revenue for both our NBA and NHL telecasts,” Sloan said. “The fallout of the daily fantasy category took a big chunk of revenue out of play. We had to replace it, and we did.”
Both the regional NHL and NBA telecasts have some new advertisers for the coming season. Verizon and Liberty Mutual are two new NHL advertisers, while Gatorade and Mini Cooper are in regional NBA telecasts for the first time. In addition, MetroPCS, which dabbled in NBA regional telecast ads last year, has increased its presence in a big way.
Sloan says returning advertisers in traditionally strong categories like automotive and quick service restaurants increased their season-long allocations in both the NHL and NBA, and two lesser-strength categories, insurance and telecom, have grown.
Sloan says the NHL RSNs, whose telecasts began Oct. 13, were close to 80% sold out prior to the start of the season. Expectations are that the NBA RSNs, whose telecasts start on Oct. 25, will also be close to 80% sold.
As for the daily fantasy sports companies, Sloan says, “We have prepared as if they won’t be coming back, but we are still staying in contact with them.”
Sloan says political advertisers have found that regional sports telecasts are a cost-effective place to reach a large and young aggregate audience.
Also working in the favor of the RSNs, Sloan says, is that in both the NHL and NBA coverage they offer small pods of only three commercials, which reduces clutter and results in better viewership and engagement of the ads.
While 19 of the 29 U.S. RSNs televising NBA games first introduced streaming of their telecasts on their websites last season, the NHL RSNs have jumped on board this season for the first time. He says 11 NHL RSNs will be streaming their telecasts this season, and he’s hoping that number will grow as the season gets under way.
Sloan says for the first time this season, the RSNs will be able to do dynamic ad insertion into their streaming telecasts, meaning that advertisers that just want to be in those and not the linear telecasts will be able to do so.
Some of the major sponsors back from last season in the NHL RSN telecasts are Dairy Queen and Volvo. Dairy Queen will again be presenting sponsor of the first week’s telecasts of the NHL games. While Volvo, in addition to being a regular season advertiser, will also return as first round sponsor of the NHL playoffs. The RSNs are permitted to regionally televise the first-round games of the respective league’s playoffs.
State Farm has also worked out a new partnership with the NBA RSNs that will include a hefty half of the season commitment following the NBA All-Star Game. State Farm is another national advertiser that dabbled in RSN NBA coverage last year but is expanding that considerably this season.
The streaming telecasts of both the RSN NBA and NHL games also have presenting sponsors. MillerCoors is the NHL streaming telecast sponsor, while MetroPCS will be presenting sponsor of the NBA streaming game telecasts.
Also helping generate some advertiser interest were the Olympics and the Hockey World Cup. Many of the NBA’s superstars played on the U.S. Olympic basketball team and drummed up lots of viewer anticipation for the coming season. The Hockey World Cup did the same.
And, of course, there was increased interest in the two home RSN markets of the NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers and the NHL Stanley Cup-winning Pittsburgh Penguins. The Cavs home RSN is Fox Sports Ohio, while the Penguins home RSN is Root Sports Pittsburgh.
Other RSN markets that have received strong advertiser interest for NHL telecasts are Comcast SportsNet Chicago for the Blackhawks and Fox Sports Detroit, home of the Red Wings. In the NBA, RSNs drawing strong advertiser interest include CSN Bay Area, which televises the Golden State Warriors; FSN Southwest, home of the San Antonio Spurs; and FSN OKC, home of the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Sloan points out that in the NBA in particular, many advertisers in addition to spending big on the home RSN telecasts of teams like the Cavaliers and Warriors also have loaded up on their road games across other RSNs.
The highest-rated NBA RSN last season was CSN Bay Area and the Warriors, which averaged a household rating of 9.76. FSN Ohio with the Cavaliers was right behind with a household rating of 9.31. FSN Southwest and the Spurs were next with an 8.71, followed by FS OKC with a 6.7 and Sun Sports, home of the Miami Heat, which averaged a 4.50.
CSN Bay Area and the Warriors produced a ratings increase of 160% over the previous season, largest among the NBA RSNs. On a percentage basis, other RSNs showing large household ratings increases were FSN Florida (Orlando Magic), 63%; MSG New York (Knicks), 58%; CSN Philadelphia (76ers), 41%; and FSN North (Minnesota Timberwolves), 17%. FSN Ohio and the Cavs, off a larger base audience, also produced a 17% household rating increase last season.
The highest-rated NHL RSN last season was MSG Buffalo (Sabres), 6.55. Others include Root Sports (Pittsburgh Penguins), 5.87; CSN Chicago (Blackhawks), 3.96; FSN Midwest (St. Louis Blues), 3.72; and NESN (Boston Bruins), 3.46.
MSG Buffalo and the Sabres produced the highest percentage of household ratings increase last season, rising 60%. Other RSNs showing large household ratings increases on a percentage basis were Prime Ticket Los Angeles (Anaheim Ducks), 52%; FSN Florida (Florida Panthers) 47%; FSN West (Los Angeles Kings), 26%; FSN Sun (Tampa Lighting), 23%; and MSG Plus (New Jersey Devils), 20%.