If last spring’s “March Madness” tournament on cable is any indication, I wouldn’t be surprised if the upcoming college basketball season surges out of the gate when the games get underway in mid-November. The new season has quite a tailwind given how last season ended — a 45%+ surge in cable viewing during the Men’s Division I NCAA Tournament (vs 2014.)
Of course, true college fans don’t wait until the March playoffs to get their fill of basketball. And for several years now, ad-supported cable has been the place to tune-in with dozens of games every week from the start of the season right through conference tournament play in the first half of March. Last season, for example, cable was responsible for delivering nearly 80% of all gross impressions for the college game with ESPN leading the way with half that total:
The highest national cable ratings for college basketball accrue to EPSN which – over the past two seasons — has consistently delivered U.S. household ratings hovering just above a 1.0 (and shares just below 2.0):
The real story, however, behind ESPNs consistent national viewing is the tremendous spike in local market viewing when hometown teams appear on national telecasts. For example, the January 19th game between the visiting Oklahoma Sooners versus the Kansas Jayhawks delivered a national U.S. Household rating of 1.05. In the Kansas City DMA, however, the local rating jumped 500% (6.40). And in the Oklahoma City DMA – 800% (9.56 rating):
Local Cable Advertising Demand
Local cable advertising support for college basketball has been very strong! During the 2014-15 season, well over 500 Viamedia clients ordered 15,200 30-second spots across 60 markets. That comes to an average of 27 spots per advertiser. And if we confine our analysis to the 43 Viamedia markets that exhibited local cable advertising over the past two college basketball seasons (2013-14 & 2014-15), we find robust overall growth (+29%) driven almost exclusively by an increase in 30-second unit pricing.
Source: Viamedia internal analysis of B.I.G.SM database (Sports & High Profile Tracker module). Copyright © 2015 by Viamedia, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Although ESPN captures (by far) the largest share of local cable advertising dollars (and highest ratings), it should be noted that there are several other cable networks in which Viamedia clients have invested. ESPN2, for example, captured 23% of local dollars, followed by the Big Ten Network (14%):
Local Cable Advertising Categories
Big time sports on cable TV attracts significant investments from the automotive industry and Men’s College Basketball is no exception. Twenty-seven of the Top Fifty advertisers over the past two seasons were either auto manufacturers or auto dealerships. And in total, 50% of all local cable advertising was automotive, with the next six largest categories representing a little less than one-third:
Viamedia’s hometown is Lexington — just a few miles down the road from the University of Kentucky. To say our company (not to mention the entire market) is wild about the Wildcats would be an understatement. A big understatement! Two seasons ago, during the 2014 “March Madness” tournament, Kentucky played Wisconsin in a “Final 4” contest, delivering a national U.S. household rating of 6.4. And here in Lexington, Kentucky – 22.9 rating!
And precisely one year later, in a 2015 “Final 4” contest between the same two teams, the U.S. household rating reached 11.4, while here in Lexington we shattered the glass with a 40.7 rating!
Given the number of UK underclassmen that declared for the 2015 NBA Draft, there’s some debate as to whether Kentucky needs to re-build from scratch or simply re-load. I’m not sure, but I do know our home town team — just like dozens of others around the country – is entering the 2015-16 season with fan (and advertiser) interest hotter than ever!
For more information on Viamedia, visit www.viamediatv.com.
– Written by Jonathan Sims, VP Media Research, Viamedia