The move of “Thursday Night Football” to Amazon Prime Video masks the fact that the sport’s viewership continues to grow, according to SVB MoffettNathanson, and remains a key part of network television. Analyst Michael Nathanson said average football viewership fell by 4% in the 2022-23 season, but the drop was due to a sharp drop in the number of those watching Thursday night’s game. Excluding Thursday night, ratings were actually up 1% from last season, thanks to more people watching Sunday games on CBS and Fox. And that was on top of a 9% increase in viewership over the 2021-22 football season, he said. “With the NFL representing 82 of the top 100 TV shows in 2022, it’s clear that sports (and the NFL in particular) remain the glue of the linear beam,” Nathanson wrote in a research note on Friday. “So far, this glue remains as sticky as ever.” It’s the main reason why events like the Super Bowl are still important and why the cost of a 30-second commercial continues to climb. This year, some coveted 30-second time slots during the big game have grossed over $7 million. Nathanson said the NFL was the biggest driver of the network’s ratings — and ultimately ad dollars — during the fall TV season. He looked at NFL games and shoulder programming—before and after games—and found that they made up more than half (55%) of Fox’s total live viewership that day. “Meanwhile, the NFL accounted for a large but relatively consistent share of CBS (32%), NBC (31%) and ESPN (28%) cumulative time watched during the 2022 football season,” he said. . “So we remain in an era where NFL rankings really matter, especially as networks transfer higher-profile entertainment content and tertiary sports rights to their affiliated sister streaming platforms.” CBS and Fox host league games on Sunday afternoons. “Sunday Night Football” airs on NBC, while Disney, which owns ESPN and ABC, has the rights to broadcast “Monday Night Football.” Starting next year, Google’s YouTube will be able to stream “Sunday Ticket,” which includes out-of-market games on Sundays. But Nathanson expects the future to be different as streaming services gain more viewers. Amazon has the rights to “Thursday Night Football” through 2033. About two-thirds of the 2021-22 season’s evening viewership shifted from linear television to streaming in 2022-23, Nathanson said. The vast majority – around 82% – of fans who stopped watching were over 50. More importantly for advertisers, there was only a 14% decline in the 18-49 age bracket. And, also remarkably, Amazon said it saw an 11% increase in viewership in the highly desirable 18-34 age bracket. All this to say that there’s a reason advertisers still care to run their ads during football games. They deliver audiences and eyeballs. Over 100 million households for the Super Bowl, for example. This year’s game will be lighter on the crypto ads that dominated last year, but ad mainstays from General Motors, T-Mobile and Budweiser will be back. Nathanson has top ratings on Amazon, Comcast, Disney, Fox and Alphabet. It assesses Paramount’s underperformance. Disclosure: Comcast is the parent company of NBCUniversal, owner of CNBC.
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