Fox Taking NFL Sponsors ‘Closer to the Action’

Fox, which is adding Thursday Night Football this season, is offering new ad formats that will bring sponsors “closer to the action” during upfront discussions.

Under president for ad revenue Joe Marchese, Fox is looking to create innovative forms of advertising that are more engaging and less interruptive.

During Fox’s upfront presentation on Monday, Marchese is expected to pitch the idea of bringing brands closer to the content in entertainment shows and closer to the action in sports.

The new NFL ad format would appear when a whistle blows. Instead of going to a promo, Fox will go directly to a commercial. A branded animation will tie to game to the commercial. In one example a soda can would appear and “swipe” from the game into the spot. Or the ad could appear at the end of a break, and go directly in to the game, with the promo moved inside the pod.

The idea is to catch fans while they are still attentive, rather than having a promo signal that it’s time to make a sandwich or check the score on another game.

The NFL remains TV’s highest rated programming but viewership fell last season, as did regular-season ad revenue. CBS and NBC, which split the Thursday night NFL package last season both said they lost money on the games.

Fox needs to find ways to boost its NFL revenue.

Last season Fox was among the first television networks to deploy six second spots. They would appear during short breaks in the action, rather than being included in longer pods during official time outs or between quarters.

Fox and other networks also employed picture-in-picture ads that showed viewers a commercial while still allowing them to see what’s happening in the stadium.

The idea with both ad formats is to keep viewers engaged.

In addition to pushing its additional NFL inventory—Fox will again claim to own the fall with high rated pro and college football games plus the World Series—Marchese is trying to appeal to advertisers by reducing the commercial load in Fox shows. By the year 2020, Marchese has said he wants Fox to be airing just two minutes’ worth of commercials per hours.

Notably Fox plans to cut ads on Sunday nights by airing only what it calls Jazz pods—commercial breaks with only two 30-second spots. Fox is not lengthening the shows, but instead looks to fill the extra time with branded content, such as movie trailers.

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.