NFL’s Return Providing TV Relief

With production stalled, and TV tentpoles and live sports off the air for months, late July and August were a welcome sight for the industry. MLB, NBA and NHL action all returned, and with them came impressions boosts and big brand advertisers.

However, that was also a bit of a prelude to this fall, when the NFL returned. Long the king of TV programming, the NFL always hauls in big audiences — and impressions numbers for ads. With fewer fans attending games in person this year too, networks went into this fall eagerly awaiting the relief the NFL could provide.

Through two weeks, it’s performed pretty well compared to 2019. During the first two weeks of NFL action, brands had 13.2 billion impressions against an estimated spend of $518.2 million according to iSpot. Year-over-year spend was up over $85 million, while impressions were down around 4%.

Top advertisers year over year was a fairly consistent list. By impressions:


Notable risers were Toyota and Apple iPhone, though both were among the top 50 through two weeks last season.

Quick serve brands had the most impressions of any industry, with 1.68 billion. The NFL’s return also signaled the expected return of auto advertisers to TV, en masse. Automakers had the most impressions of any industry during week 1 and 2, with 1.60 billion. Auto/general insurance, wireless and beer followed in an order that was the same as 2019.

Live NFL games have accounted for over 12.5% of TV impressions for new programming since September 1, and over 20% of estimated spend. Among new shows, the NFL and NBA were the only two that made up more than 10% of spend, as well as over 5% of impressions. Both show just how crucial premium sports programming is to TV — especially with scripted primetime shows returning slowly this fall.

Want to learn more about NFL on TV? Check out iSpot’s free report from 2019’s regular season and playoffs, or our Super Bowl ad report from February.

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