While NFL ratings decline, NFL ad rates keep going up

second quarter

Major broadcasters are currently dealing with a ratings decline for the NFL, but can take solace in the knowledge that average cost for ads during games across all networks in trending up.

According Standard Media Index’s numbers for September, the average 30-second spot among networks showing NFL games in September was $489,193, up 4 percent from the same period last year and up 10 percent from 2014.

“Our new cost level data clearly shows that while ratings on football have been under pressure early in the season, average unit costs continue to increase. This demonstrates that live sport and the huge audiences it attracts are an outstanding drawcard for major brands,” said James Fennessy, CEO of SMI, in a statement.

Broadcast networks saw the majority of the boost from ad spending on NFL games. Both Fox and CBS saw an 11 percent increase in cost for spots airing during Sunday afternoon football. NBC’s Sunday Night Football saw a 9 percent increase. But CBS’s Thursday Night Football stayed mostly flat.

Meanwhile, ESPN saw the lowest average cost for a 30-second spot rate during NFL games and experienced a 4 percent decline compared to the same period in 2015.

Despite the bright spot for NFL ads amid a ratings crisis, broadcasters still experienced a rather sharp decline in ad revenue during September. Broadcast spend fell 13.2 percent annually, a decline that SMI attributes to a lack of advertising dollars flowing in from FanDuel and DraftKings, which are collectively spending $100 million less than they did in September 2015 across all broadcast and cable.

Primetime revenue was down 16 percent annually, with average unit cost ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox for primetime excluding sports coming in at $86,000, down 7.6 percent from $93,300 in 2015.

This article was updated to reflect a correction SMI made to its numbers regarding ESPN's NFL ad revenue.

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