It was recently announced that the Premier League would recommence on 17th June, with two-midweek fixtures to be played first before a full weekend schedule. There are 92 games still to be played – behind closed doors – to finish the season and incredibly, every single one of these games will be broadcast live on television. With kick-off times staggered in regular intervals across the weekends, there could be up to 10 games aired live from Friday to Monday. That is not to mention the mid-week games that may follow in certain game weeks.
One of the key aspects of this development is that Premier League games will be broadcast on free to air stations for the first time since the league’s inception in 1992. The BBC will show 4 games, which will no doubt pull significant ratings, while Sky will also be airing 25 of their 64 allotted games on free-to-air station, Pick, including the Merseyside derby.
Championship clubs are also currently following top tier clubs in returning to training and there is a good chance that they will follow suit and restart their season in June too. Details here are still to be confirmed, but when they are it will almost certainly mean even more games being shown on television in accordance with their broadcast deals.
All told, the nation is set for a bumper few weeks of wall-to-wall football action on their TV sets.
This news will certainly provoke a reaction among most, ranging from unbridled joy to a deep dread, hinging on your level of interest in football and the impact it has on your weekend plans. However, as a marketer, it should at the very least provoke a sense of intrigue as well. For marketers, regardless of your intentions for tuning in to the return of top tier domestic sporting action on our screens, the Premier League’s return will likely have an impact on your TV campaigns, in some form.
With Premier League content remaining the jewel in Sky and BT’s respective sporting rights crowns – commanding huge premiums from advertisers due to the unique and hard-to-reach audiences it attracts – the loss in revenue is disproportionately higher than the drop in audience ratings on these stations. Nielsen estimates that market investment within the Sky Sports stations across the past four weeks is down 88% compared to 2019. This amounts to tens of millions of pounds that Sky Media have lost during the COVID-19 crisis across just sports stations alone.
This loss in revenue has been driven by a wide range of business sectors. Drinks (both soft and alcoholic), finance, comparison sites and certain gambling categories, to name but a few, have all been investing as much as 95% less in sports stations while overall TV spends have remained relatively consistent. These brands have been unable to invest in high impacting sporting content and have therefore turned to other stations and programming to deliver their campaigns.
Sportsbook advertising has unsurprisingly stopped almost completely over the last two months and the return of live sports events on TV will surely see a significant increase in demand from these advertisers across the second half of June and into July. Similarly, motoring category spend has been down dramatically in recent weeks (74% year-on-year) due to coronavirus restrictions, but with car showrooms set to open back up soon too, it can be expected that these advertisers will come back into the market and the Premier League will form a core part of their plans.
All Response Media viewpoint
It will not be until the first games have been played and the initial viewing figures are in that we will be able to truly understand the impact the return of live football will have on the market. Increases in market spend may impact pricing for certain trading audiences – young men for example – and will be something that the teams at All Response Media will be keeping a close eye on in the coming weeks. Nevertheless, with fixed pricing negotiated across several sales houses and dayparts, the impact of any changes will be mitigated for clients in many instances.
TV viewing is already up across the board since lockdown began, but this has been predominantly driven by weekday viewing, with more people being at home. It will be interesting to see if weekend viewing will increase as well now that this key programming is back. The view from Germany has been that viewing figures for the return of the Bundesliga have been exceptionally strong, but with lockdown measures gradually easing and the UK experiencing some fantastic weather, the sales houses may have a battle on their hands as they look to attract viewers beyond the opening weekend.
The impact on market pricing will be determined by the strength of audience interest, as well as the degree of renewed advertiser investment. With so many opportunities for audiences to watch live games and advertisers to be present within Premier League content over the coming weeks, it is unlikely that demand will outstrip supply and send prices soaring though. Initial indications from media owners lead us to believe that the fixtures will not be priced at such high premiums as in normal conditions and we believe that there will likely never be a more cost-efficient time for advertisers to run in Premier League content. For advertisers looking to reach upscale audiences, both young and old, this presents a fantastic opportunity to drive additional campaign reach and cut through. Well-aligned brands will see that live football can drive fantastic response rates and with pricing as low as it is likely to ever be, there may be no better time to test.
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