I have a confession to make… at least when it comes to the National Football League (NFL) Draft.
It is my number one, favorite sporting event of the year. By far.
There… I said it!
Even more than the Super Bowl, in which my favorite team (the New York Giants) was victorious not that long ago.
But how can that be?
I have no rational explanation, except to say that I am a “Draftnick”, which is someone (maybe a touch obsessive) who analyzes numerous scenarios of which NFL teams will select which college players, with the scenarios dynamically changing after each and every selection.
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 coveted 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.
That’s the ideal.
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.
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.
The 2014 NFL Draft (First Round) catapulted ESPN into the #1 spot during the three hour time slot 8-11pm, delivering a 6.9 U.S HH rating (9.1 Share). That comes to an average delivery of nearly 8 Million households:
Considering that ESPN is cablecasting essentially the same programming content (at the same time) as the NFL Network, it is remarkable that it has exhibited increased ratings strength over the past four years. Indeed, so has the NFL Network, and together last year they delivered their highest audience ever — a combined 8 U.S. Household rating points (9.3+ Million homes):
Local Market Fan Viewing & the #1 Pick
Last May (http://viamediatv.com/blog/726) we wrote about the DMAs that just can’t seem to get enough of the NFL Draft. As a general rule, markets with NFL teams (as well as nearby, adjacent DMAs) perform very well ratings-wise. So, too, does the South in general where SEC College Football is something akin to a near-religious experience:
When the Home Team has the Very First Pick
As you can imagine, there’s a lot of buzz and excitement generated in the home town DMA of the team that possesses the #1 overall selection in the NFL Draft. After all, the very first player selected (at least in theory) is the best player in the entire draft, and a tremendous amount of hope and optimism is riding on the pick.
The question we sought to answer: Does the overall #1 pick raise the viewing levels in the team’s home town DMA?
Based on our statistical analysis, the answer is a resounding, “Yes!”
Over the past four NFL Drafts, the following teams had the very first selection:
For each team we generated two rating indices. The first (colum3 below) is a ratings index when the team had the first pick in the Draft, comparing the home team DMA rating against the national average. In the 2011 Draft, for example, the Carolina Panthers had the first selection and its hometown DMA of Charlotte achieved a 4.87 HH rating, which indexed at 170 in comparison with the national rating for the Draft that year (2.87 HH rating).
The second ratings index (column 4 below) is the average rating for the DMA for the three other years in which its home team did NOT have the #1 pick, indexed against the average national rating for these three Drafts. Staying with our 2011 example, the Charlotte DMA achieved a 3-year average DMA HH rating of 5.84 when the Panthers did not have the first selection in 2012, 2013 & 2014. This rating indexes at 129 versus the national rating of 4.52 for the Draft in these three years.
The last step (column 5 below) compares the two indices to arrive at the percent ratings index lift. In the case of the Charlotte DMA, having the first pick in 2011 resulted in a 31.1% ratings index lift (i.e., 169.6 Index / 129.4 Index – 1):
Last season, things did not go so well for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers – a team with a less than inspiring record of two wins and fourteen losses. But in the NFL Draft, “The last shall be first,” and it’s a pretty good bet viewing will soar in Tampa Bay as their fans anxiously await their team stepping up to the podium with the very first overall selection in the 2015 NFL Draft.
Local Cable Advertising Demand
Over the past two NFL Drafts (2013 & 2014), local cable demand has been strong with 190+ local cable advertisers investing nearly 2,000 30-second spots over the course of just six draft days. On average, that comes to approximately 10 spots per advertiser spread out over 100 cable zones within 48 Viamedia markets. (Source: Viamedia internal analysis of B.I.G.SM database (Sports & High Profile Tracker module). Copyright © 2015 by Viamedia, Inc. All Rights Reserved.)
For the past few years, the NFL has gone to a 3-day draft format, with Round 1 airing on Thursday evening in primetime, followed by Rounds 2-3 on Friday and Rounds 4-7 on Saturday. Based on an analysis of internal billing records, local cable ad demand is highest on Draft Days One & Three, garnering nearly three-quarters of total ad investments, followed by Day Two – just over one-quarter:
From an advertising category perspective, the NFL Draft mirrors the regular football season with well over half of all advertising investments made by automotive dealerships and manufacturers. The biggest departure from the NFL regular season is tune-in advertising, which comprises over 9% of NFL Draft dollars – a sure sign that other cable (and broadcast) networks consider the Draft to be the sort of high profile programming that attracts the audience they want to reach:
My Poor Giants
How important is the Draft to NFL teams?
Well, no team will ever get a sniff of the Super Bowl if they draft poorly, and there are countless examples of that (i.e., sorry Oakland Raider fans).
And look no further than my poor New York Giants – a team that hasn’t come close to the Super Bowl since the 2011 Season because they failed in the Draft to replenish an aging offensive line, not to mention numerous “swings–and-misses” on the defensive side of the ball.
Which is another way of saying that I’ll be glued to the TV set – like millions of others — (starting Thursday evening, April 30th) to see whether or not my home team will redeem itself in the 80th edition of the NFL Draft. And like so many other “Draftnicks”, I’ll have my charts and statistics out, watching like a hawk as my team steps up to the podium to announce which players they’ve staked their entire future on.
For more information on Viamedia, visit www.viamediatv.com.
– Written by Jonathan Sims, VP Media Research, Viamedia