SBJ/October 30 - November 5, 2006/This Weeks News

NFL Network says ad sales strong despite concerns

NFL Network is ramping up ad sales as it approaches its first regular-season game, even as ad buyers worry about the network’s distribution and ratings measurement.

NFL Network isn’t selling ads against any of its eight individual games. Instead, buyers have to buy a package of network programming.

Overall, the network says ad sales across all of its programming are three times higher this year than last, and that inventory within the games is starting to become scarce. The network would not reveal the number of in-game spots left to fill.

While many of the NFL’s corporate sponsors have bought into the network, several spots have been sold to companies that aren’t in those ranks, including Nike, Wendy’s, Anheuser-Busch and Best Buy.

Ad buyers, though, are expressing concern about the network’s distribution — it’s now in about 41 million homes — and its ratings measurement system.

NFL Network isn’t rated by Nielsen, right now, and it’s possible that its first couple of live games will not be rated, either, said network spokesman Seth Palansky. “We hope they will be, but we have a lot of issues that we have to work through,” he said.

One of those issues deals with whether Nielsen will count homes on the Insight and Cox cable systems. Insight and Cox carry the network’s regular programming, but have refused to pay a surcharge the network is asking for the games.

If Nielsen counts those homes, which Palansky said is possible, its ratings number would not be accurate.

Similarly, Palansky questioned whether Nielsen would be able to count thousands of new cable subscribers that could be added around Thanksgiving, the day of the first game on the network, if NFL Network can negotiate a carriage deal by then.

Some ad buyers expressed concern when told that some games might not be rated.

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