First round NBA and NHL playoff ratings increased over regular season averages in every regional sports network market except for New Orleans, according to Nielsen data, giving marketers who invested in the playoff telecasts a good bang for their buck.
Under the terms of the NBA and NHL TV rights deals, the national broadcast and cable networks get exclusivity beginning with the second round, so the regional sports nets are permitted to televise games locally during the first round with national coverage blacked out in those markets.
RSNs that showed the greatest percentage increases for first round NBA telecasts compared to their regular season telecasts were Root Houston, which televises the Houston Rocket games, up 109% to a household rating of 3.78, and Comcast SportsNet New England, home of the Boston Celtics, up 101% to a household rating of 4.04.
The NHL percentages of increase between first round playoffs and regular season were even higher with each of the nine markets showing increases of 100% or more. Highest increases were by Prime Ticket in California for the Anaheim Ducks, up 331% to a 1.25, and by MSG Network for the New York Islanders, up 310% to a 2.5.
Craig Sloan, senior VP for Home Team Sports, a division of Fox Sports Media Group which sells advertising for all U.S. RSN telecasts, says this postseason for the NBA and NHL was most successful ever in terms of dollar revenue taken in.
“We were up double-digital percentages in ad dollars for the first round of the playoffs for both the NBA and NHL,” he says. “That’s on top of our regular season ad sales which were up high-single digit percentages for both sports.”
Sloan says RSN playoff advertisers are made up of three different groups. About a third include marketers who buy packages for the entire regular season and the first round of the playoffs. Another third includes advertisers who come in and buy all the RSNs just for the playoffs. The final third are advertisers who select certain playoff markets to advertise in.
Marketers who did not advertise on the RSNs during the regular season but just came in just for the NBA playoffs this season include Dominos, AT&T and MetroPCS, Sloan says. KFC was a regular season NBA advertiser that came in for the playoffs for the first time.
Volvo was a new advertiser in the RSN NHL playoff telecasts and bought a presenting sponsorship of games televised in each market that televised first round games. Other new RSN NHL advertisers who came in just for the playoffs included Liberty Mutual, Intel and Hotels.com. Geico was a regular season RSN NHL advertiser that came in for the playoffs for the first time.
Sloan says marketers who jump in for the playoffs get a larger mix of fans, some of who are not regular season viewers.
HTS did a fan segmentation study which found that 19% of the RSN playoff viewers for the NBA and NHL are “sports junkies” who watch games throughout the season and not just games involving their home or local teams. Another 66% of the viewers are “homers” who watch only the games of the local team they root for. But the other 15% are fans described as “occasionals” who come in just to watch the playoffs in the respective leagues.
“Those are the viewers who don’t want to be left out of the social conversations and water cooler discussions at work the next day when people are talking about the games the previous night,” Sloan says. “Those are the fans who don’t regularly watch the NFL but tune in for the Super Bowl, or who don’t watch MLB but will watch the MLB playoffs or World Series games.”
So marketers get a chance to reach those more casual or occasional fans on the RSN first round NBA or NHL telecasts.
Here are the other household rating percentage of increases for RSN NBA first round telecasts compared to regular season: Fox Sports Wisconsin (Milwaukee Bucks), up 73% to a 3.53; Comcast SportsNet Bay Area (Golden State Warriors), up 71% to a 6.43; CSN Chicago (Chicago Bulls), up 62% to a 7.65; YES (Brooklyn Nets), up 51% to a 0.74; Fox Sports South (Atlanta Hawks), up 45% to a 3.17; Prime Ticket (Los Angeles Clippers), up 43% to a 1.49; CSN Mid-Atlantic (Washington Wizards), up 31% to a 1.71; Fox Sports Ohio (Cleveland Cavaliers), up 10% to an 8.7; and Fox Sports Southwest (San Antonio Spurs), up 6% to an 8.9.
The only RSN that showed a decrease in its playoff ratings compared to regular season was Fox Sports New Orleans (New Orleans Pelicans), down 3% to a 1.78.
The NHL RSN ratings showed even larger percentage increases than the NBA telecasts.
Among the RSN percentage of increase behind the 331% shown by Prime Ticket for the Anaheim Ducks and MSG and its 310% increase for the New York Islanders were: Sun Sports/Fox Sports Florida (Tampa Bay Lightning), up 245% to a 4.24; Fox Sports Detroit (Detroit Red Wings), up 230% to an 11.7; CSN Mid-Atlantic (Washington Capitals), up 225% to a 3.28; Fox Sports North (Minnesota Wild), up 206% to a 12.8; MSG (New York Rangers), up 184% to a 4.63; Fox Sports Midwest (St. Louis Blues), up 146% to a 12.09; CSN Chicago (Chicago Blackhawks), up 134% to a 9.97; and Root Pittsburgh (Pittsburgh Penguins), up 105% to a 13.4.
Sloan says the strong playoff ratings for both the NBA and NHL on the RSNs motivate marketers to renew their packages for the following season.
“This year just about all of our major sponsors returned from last season, and we are currently having discussions with many of them about next season,” Sloan says.
He adds that while most of the deals with new advertisers get done later in the summer and closer to next season, those that want to come in with sponsorship packages beyond just traditional commercials should be doing so as early as now.
“We’re not restricted by the leagues as to what we can sell on the screen during telecasts because we work with the local teams and are not bound by the national TV rights deals or league regulations,” Sloan says. “We’re not going to do anything to clutter the screen. Everything we sell needs to be an enhancement to the telecasts.”
But Sloan says HTS working with the local RSNs has added more tech components to the telecasts along with more statistical analysis data that can be shown on the screen and sponsorships can be sold for that.