Article Image - TV Gives Advertisers Reason to Cheer Again

TV Gives Advertisers Reason to Cheer Again

By: Kendell Lee
June 2023
7 minutes

Gone are the days when everyone watched TV at the same time and there were only so many programs for brands to put their advertising dollars. However, despite the rise in programming, devices and streaming services, TV is still where consumers choose to spend their time. And despite the crowded market, inflated advertising rates and fragmented audiences, TV is still the center of attention for marketers who want to watch their brand awareness grow. So, before you change that channel, grab the popcorn and tune in to see why TV should be back in your media plan.

People Still Want Their TV, Live or On Demand

You can use a variety of different media tactics to reach a mass audience, but how long will that take? Including TV on a media plan provides instantaneous reach that very few channels can in a short timeframe. Why? Because of the size of the audience that’s participating. The average American spends almost half their day watching, reading or interacting with media. TV is a quarter of that time, just over 4 hours. But while TV isn’t consumed as frequently throughout the day as other digital media types, it commands the largest audience regardless of how it’s accessed. 80% of US adults watch TV each day (over 200MM people), whether through traditional or streaming services.

Traditional TV viewership, viewed as scheduled through satellite or cable, has been on the decline for several years now. But that doesn’t mean TV consumption is down. Viewers are now able to watch their content on the go, which gives them the time they need to consume their favorite shows or movies. In 2022, US adults spent 54% (or 3:07) of their daily video time with traditional TV, and the remaining 46% (or 2:41) with digital.

For several years now, marketers have been actively redistributing their media spend to accommodate for these shifts to more on-demand TV viewing habits by purchasing ads both on traditional and streaming properties. But with the segmentation of TV into various apps, platforms and devices, it’s hard to know exactly which TV advertising opportunities will deliver that immediate reach and impact for your client. Consumers are currently allowing multiple TV-viewing methods to coexist in their lives, using each for specific needs. Jeff Shell, former NBC Universal CEO, was previously quoted saying, “If you have the right content, and you offer a broad distribution platform, your consumers are going to find you.” And that right content, for decades, has been sports.

TV Gives Viewers a Sporting Chance

From the “Must See TV” days of Ross and Rachel to over 5,000 different shows and movies on Netflix alone, how Americans interact with TV has become less about schedules and more about selection. Live sports are not only what consumers want; they are something providers need to capture a less fragmented, larger audience.

Live TV, sports in particular, is one of the reasons many consumers haven’t given up their cable or satellite subscriptions. It’s also why streaming services with live TV access, like Hulu and YouTube TV, were able to get some people to commit to cutting the cord. A majority of consumers have serious FOMO (fear of missing out) when it comes to big TV events. Whether it’s tuning in to the Olympics at 7am or planning your night around the start of the next Bachelor episode, live TV is not passive – it commands viewers’ attention. Especially with the growing number of digital and social media sources that can spoil the news in real time.

Even non-sports fans know that the Super Bowl accumulates the largest audience and therefore the highest reach of all TV programs each year, with the last several years delivering well over 100 million viewers. In fact, the last time a TV broadcast averaged 100 million viewers without it being a Super Bowl was the 1994 pursuit of O.J. Simpson.

While many assume the Super Bowl is the only sport advertisers care about when needing to reach millions, the reality is that most major league events can give advertisers what they need. For example, Sunday Night Football has consistently reigned as the king of live TV, averaging 20 million viewers and winning 12 consecutive years as the #1 TV show against all audiences. This ties directly to advertising revenue (the annual value of NFL TV broadcasting rights is $10 billion), with providers doing whatever they can to own any or all of these audiences, and advertisers doing the same.

Live sporting events that are accessible on streaming platforms are one of the reasons traditional TV viewership is decreasing. While 10 years ago it would have been unheard of for the NFL to stream their games, schedules in 2023 now include several streaming providers. Amazon Prime houses Thursday Night Football, whereas anyone wanting to watch the Saturday night wildcard playoff game this year will need a Peacock subscription. Streaming sports are also helping to incorporate the younger audience, the Gen Z’s, that never had the cord to cut. Sports fans are a loyal bunch, but they are not being held back by these changes in the TV landscape. They have shown their willingness to use multiple sources for their games, which only continues to demonstrate the importance of sports.

TV Hits Home Run with New Drama

While football may be the most viewed sport, new or improved sports are also vying for sports fans’ attention. New ventures, such as the National Pickleball League, and expanded interest in smaller sports and leagues are increasing sports viewership outside of the major sports leagues.

The fight between LIV and the PGA played out in Netflix’s Full Swing. Ryan Reynolds and his dream team ownership with Wrexham on FX/Hulu. And the massive hit Cheer brought to Netflix that then spun off into a national touring act, Cheer Live. All of these are proof that when sports bring the emotions, people will be there to see it rise (or fall). And it’s not just the social media conversations that are increasing. TV ratings for the less commonly watched sports in America (golf, soccer, tennis, etc.) have shown growth over the last couple of years that hadn’t been seen before. 2022 viewership of Formula One grew 28% from 2021. More recently, The Master’s in 2023 delivered a 19% increase in viewers year over year. What is allowing these sports to build their TV audiences, when American consumers have more options than ever to spend their time?

A key factor in the prevalence of newer or lesser watched sports is the ability of these sports and athletes to become the ultimate influencers by way of TV content. After the popularity of several football docuseries, like Hard Knocks on HBO and Last Chance U on Netflix, streaming providers started to test the waters with other “sportumentaries” using lesser-known sports and sports figures. The results have been very positive over the last couple years.

A recent example of one of these sportumentaries is Neflix’s Formula 1: Drive to Survive. While each season has garnered more viewers vs the last, Nielsen was able to prove the success translated to an increased interest in the sport itself. Their study compared F1 race viewership during the 2021 season, and then again in 2022. The audience data showed that a third of the audience who watched an F1 race in 2022 hadn’t watched any F1 in 2021 but had watched the Netflix show in between the 2021 and 2022 race season. And while the excitement surrounding any sport can help bring audiences and increased attention, it’s the effect these shows have connecting fans to the athletes and their drama daily lives that has proven to be the best version of unscripted reality programming today.

The next generation of sports viewer – younger, interested in sports that are rarely popularized today, using newer apps/platforms to watch – is one that marketers need to pay attention to. They will be part of the driving factor that pushes scripted or reality programming out, in favor of all types of sports.

Stay Tuned to that Dial 

The bottom line--TV is not dead. Viewership may seem like it’s on the decline, but it’s just moving around to different apps and programming. People still need their unwind time and TV continues to be a main distraction from everyday life. And what about traditional TV advertising? It can still deliver a large audience. Case in point is live sports, with steadily increasing viewership across events. So, grab your remote and take a seat. The game’s about to begin.

Say hello.