Post Type:post Analyzing NFL Draft TV Ratings Over the Years | Viamedia

How passionate are National Football League (NFL) fans?

So passionate that they are driven into a feeding frenzy four months before the official season even begins. And how does the NFL generate such excitement that has no parallel in any other sport in the world? It’s quite simple.  Welcome to the annual springtime NFL (college player selection) Draft when — over the course of three days — the fate of all 32 NFL teams rests squarely on how well they play the draft game, which involves thousands of hours of scouting and maybe just a little luck as they select 260 college football players from around the country.

The NFL Draft has a hypnotic hold on millions — all you need to do is check out the thousands of mock drafts that begin in earnest months before the Draft even takes place. And if you’re a hard core “draftnick”, the entire matter boils down to the positional needs of your team versus the best player available (i.e., “value”) when your team makes its selection. In essence, then, reconciling “need” versus “value” is what the Draft is all about, and the most successful NFL teams play that game very well.

For several years now, Day One of the NFL Draft has been covered by ESPN and the NFL Network, which last year (collectively) delivered 6.1 Live U.S. household rating points, essentially the same level as in 2015. And while neither year compares to 2014 (8.1), the fact that the NFL Draft held onto its audience last year is no mean feat given the level of overall audience erosion (due to increased DVR usage and digital video usage):


NFL Draft

NFL Draft TV Ratings



To put cable’s performance in perspective, ESPN was the #1 Network during the four hours of the NFL Draft on the evening of April 28th (the first night of the Draft):


NFL Draft

ESPN wins Ratings on Draft Night


The NFL Draft has a lot to offer advertisers — not only does it attract a large, highly engaged television audience, it also appeals to upscale homes. Below are the U.S. household ratings for ESPN by income break. You can see that the ratings peak at a household income of $175,000 – $199,999 (6.1):


NFL Draft

NFL Draft Ratings by Household Income Level


Hard to Reach Male Viewers

Because comScore’s measurement system is based on television set-top-boxes, the ratings represent TV tuning within the entire household, not individual viewing levels. (In other words, comScore does not generate traditional age/sex demographic ratings.) However, comScore is able to identify the characteristics of household members, and by isolating single-person male and single-person female homes, we can get measure the male/female viewing skew for specific TV shows.


In the chart below, 44.6% of all single-person households are occupied by a male. But when it comes to watching the NFL Draft, 58.9% of all viewing accrues to single-person male households. In other words, the NFL Draft delivers males at a 32% higher rate (i.e., 58.9% / 44.6% – 1) than their incidence in the general population (at least within the context of single person homes):

NFL Draft

NFL Draft Reaches Men



Local Market Viewing Skews

There is a familiar pattern to local market viewing for the NFL Draft. Typically, DMAs that are home to NFL teams are strong ratings performers, as well as DMAs adjacent to NFL markets. And because football at all levels is held in very high regard in the South, southern DMAs also perform well. Below are the Top 25 highest DMA ratings over the past five NFL Drafts (Day One.) Nearly half of them are also Viamedia markets, including the #1 market of Cleveland, Ohio, which delivered a 5-year average rating that is well over twice the national average (236.1 Index):


NFL Draft

NFL Ratings by Market



Local Cable Advertising Demand

Over the past two NFL Drafts (2015 & 2016), local cable demand has been strong with over 160 local cable advertisers ordering 1,600+ 30-second spots over the course of just six draft days. On average, that comes to nearly 10 spots per advertiser spread out over 90 cable zones within 47 Viamedia markets (+60% of our national footprint.) Of particular note has been the dramatic increase in local cable client demand over the past two Drafts, with the number of clients doubling in 2016. And on a per client basis, advertising levels have increased 60% driven almost entirely by the amount clients have been willing to spend (on average) for a 30-second commercial unit.

Source: Viamedia internal analysis of B.I.G.SM    database. Copyright © 2017 by Viamedia, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

From an advertising category perspective, football (whether college or pro) is dominated by automotive advertisers and the NFL Draft is no exception with a little over half of all investments (53%) made by automotive dealerships and manufacturers. The second highest category is Political at 17% — a figure that reflects heightened activity during the 2016 Presidential Election Year:


Industries that Advertise on NFL Draft

Industries that Advertise on NFL Draft


Glued to the TV Set

For NFL “Draftnicks” (and I am one), there is something fascinating about the annual NFL Draft, which takes place this year in the City of Brotherly Love (Philadelphia) April 27th – 29th, 2017.

Of course, you are not a “Draftnick” unless you are also a crazy football fan, and when your team comes to the podium to announce its selection, your first hope is that the player you covet most is still on the “Board” (and your team selects him – which is often NOT the case). And if he’s gone, then you want the “best player” available at a position your team needs to upgrade.

But who is the best player? That’s often a matter of opinion. And that’s what has spawned an entire industry of “Draft Gurus”, such as Mel Kiper of ESPN and Mike Mayock of the NFL Network. There are also the numerous draft web sites and countless mock drafts that lead – ultimately – to a 3-day NFL Draft extravaganza, with ESPN, ESPN2 and the NFL Network providing 30+ hours of Live Draft coverage.

And how popular has the NFL Draft become? In the early 1980s, a then fledgling cable network (ESPN) was scrounging around for programming to fill its day and approached a skeptical NFL Commissioner with the idea of carrying the Draft. Hardly anyone noticed, much less cared. Today, there are millions who care… and they will all be glue to their TV sets when the Commissioner of the league (Roger Goodell) steps up to the podium to announce the start of the 2017 NFL Draft. May your team choose wisely!

Written by Jonathan Sims
VP of Media Research, Viamedia