NFL Partner Networks Handed Out Free Ads Due to Ratings Dive

Ben Roethlisberger of the Pittsburgh Steelers drops back to pass in the first half during their NFL game against the Baltimore Ravens, at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on December 25, 2016

The Christmas season is all about giving. Yet, long before Christmas, and long before the month of December, the NFL’s network partners resorted to handing out free commercials to advertisers in order to offset plummeting ratings.

According to Advertising Age, the “make-good” ads made up roughly 20% of the ad inventory for CBS and NBC. Though the networks managed to offset some of those losses later by charging higher ad rates.

No surprise that CBS and NBC decided to dole out the free air time since those networks, far more than Fox, became the most adversely effected by the NFL’s ratings slide. Fox managed to avoid the worst, primarily by showing the majority of Cowboys games which always rate highly. However, CBS and NBC got creamed particularly in their Sunday afternoon and Sunday evening national presentations.

Which stands to reason why NBC maxed the Cowboys out in Sunday Night Football appearances in the month of December. As the Advertising Age piece notes, ratings have rebounded for the NFL somewhat, post-election. Though, despite that, Fox, CBS, and NBC all saw revenue losses of 26% for the month of November.

Many outlets like Advertising Age have begun to proclaim that the post-election NFL ratings bounce proves the league correct in blaming the ratings trouble on the election. It bears reminding that only three election-related television events ever conflicted with NFL primetime games. Yet, at one point NFL primetime ratings had fallen in 25 of 26 games, so clearly that makes no sense.

What is the league trying to tell us? Do they mean to say that people became so engrossed in watching a Wednesday night debate between Trump and Hillary that they didn’t have the energy to watch Thursday Night Football? Or, that they so badly wanted to watch Rachel Maddow’s recap of the Sunday morning shows that they passed up on Monday Night Football?

No, the more likely reason for why NFL ratings have come back to respectability has to do with trends, media, and the postseason. The Kaepernick-inspired protest movement was always a fad, a trend with no intellectual depth or foundation begun by a man who never bothered to register to vote.

While the media claimed that the protests had no effect on the ratings, they also at the same time effectively stopped showing the protests. If the media truly believed that the protests didn’t effect ratings whatsoever, then why did they go from showing full-screen, frontal shots of every protestor to showing virtually none of them ever? After all, we know they didn’t stop because they wanted to respect the anthem.

The other reason, of course, has to do with the fact that the NFL becomes exponentially more interesting after early November with the playoff picture clearing up, and every game taking on more meaning.

In other words, the NFL and the media cozied up to a radical leftist and it came back to hit them in the wallet. Then they showed the depth of their dedication to the cause by flexing “America’s Team” into every primetime slot and ordering the “code red” on every protestor.

A Profile in Courage this is not.

Follow Dylan Gwinn on Twitter: @themightygwinn