With the NFL’s preseason in full swing, McDonald’s, Verizon, Gillette and Nationwide are game planning around the league’s new platform as presenting sponsors of NFL Now. The platform launched last week as the league’s personalized next-gen video service, available via Android, iOS and Windows on mobile, as well as on Amazon Kindle Fire tablets, Fire TV, Xbox and Roku, among other outlets. The basic version of NFL Now is free, with fans able to pay $1.99 a month for the NFL Now Plus premium service that offers more and fresher game highlights as well as access to that archival vault of NFL Films.
Cynopsis Sports spoke with Brian Matthews, Senior VP of Sales at the NFL about pitching the brands on the platform, how CBS is affecting sales and what to expect in the months ahead.
Matthews on NFL Now: We informed sponsors that we would be launching a next-generation video service that would provide our fans with access to not only our library of content across NFL Films and across NFL Video, but also looking at highlights of in-progress games, which was something that we really hadn’t done to date. So NFL Now will give users extensive highlights and original NFL content. All 32 teams will be providing content so there’s about 4800 minutes per week of club content. There’s NFL Films and the video that’s available and then we are also working in live content, with things like press conferences and other types of shows will also be put into this platform. Some content, of course, will be exclusive to subscribers. But the idea is that you can get any type of NFL content at your fingertips on multiple devices.
On the pitch: The advertiser reaction was extremely positive right out of the gate. We have four launch partners with Gillette, McDonald’s, Verizon and Nationwide. Some of those guys came on board right from the beginning. There were some like Verizon who wanted to be distribution partners as well. Our goal was to have four presenting sponsors and we met that goal. We’ve seen demand outside of that and what we are working on now is to find ways to work in those advertisers. In addition, one of the things we are working on is that NFL will have its own studio out in LA. So we can also build content, producing stories and breaking news. Down the road, that is something we want to be working on advertisers with as well.
On NFL Network’s upfronts: We’ve seen a lot of interest for Thursday Night Football. We have a new partnership with CBS that gives CBS the ability to run the first eight games of the season and we run the back half of the schedule. We’ve worked very closely with CBS on presenting sponsorships where clients can take advantage of those positions throughout the entire Thursday Night Football season. So, we’re in the final stages of closing out our upfront and saw tremendous success. The NFL Network is going to benefit greatly this year from CBS producing our games, Jim Nantz and Phil Simms announcing our games, etc. with a whole new dynamic. In our upfront discussions, that was a big positive. We are also seeing success on the network in Inside the NFL, which is coming to the NFL Network for the first time this year, following its run on Showtime. That’s an asset that has never been commercialized before. We’ve some success there as well along with our other programming. Overall, the demands this year was very strong.
On the digital market: We’ve seen a lot of interest on the digital side outside of NFL Now as well. One area would be Fantasy Football where we have five presenting sponsors. The interest from the user side was up by double digits last year and from an advertiser standpoint, we have double digital growth as well this year. We have a lot of returning clients and the idea with our Fantasy product is to create a lot of custom experiences for our advertisers, so as opposed to running banners and pre-roll throughout Fantasy, we have tried to customize the experience. Another big area of interest has been TNF Live. We’re going to streaming our Thursday Night Football games, just the ones on NFL Network, running ad executions that are unique to the experience on those digital platforms. That is something that we have not offered in the past and we are seeing a lot of growth there.