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NFL Media Consumption Continues To Climb: Rolapp

For NFL Media executive vice president Brian Rolapp, pro football’s game plan is centered around consumption.

As in, “we want consumption to go up overall,” with ratings and all other metrics.

That certainly has been the case with the Nielsens. Last season, all of the league’s network partners tackled improved and or record, or near record-numbers.

ESPN's 17-game Monday Night Football slate averaged 13.68 million viewers during the 2013 season, up 7% from 2012 and the third-best since ESPN began airing the franchise in 2006.

CBS’s regular-season schedule averaged 18.7 million viewers, a 6% increase over 2012’s 17.7 million average, and its second-highest average viewership in 26 years with the AFC television package.

For Fox, 2013 marked its regular season since it started broadcasting NFL games back in 1994, scoring 21.2 million viewers on average, an 8% increase over the 19.7 million in 2012 and 5% above 2010, which had stood its most-watched ever with 20.1 million

NBC averaged 21.7 million watchers with Sunday Night Football and its 19 regular-season telecasts, up slightly from 21.4 million in 2012. Last year, was the Peacock’s second best behind the 21.8 million average in 2010 over its eight seasons with the window.  Overall, SNF stood as primetime’s top show for a third consecutive year, and it ranked first among women 18 to 49, marking the first time an NFL primetime package won the fall season with that group.

Now, the league is looking to drive to new heights on Thursday nights with CBS and NFL Network, which counts some 73 million subscribers, teaming on broadcasts.

But Rolapp says consumption of the league’s games and other content continues to build elsewhere.

NFL Red Zone, the Sunday-afternoon ad hoc scoring and highlights service, is still in a growth mode, having adding 20 new providers since January and will enter the 2014 campaign with 250 affiliates. “We’re very happy with NFL Red Zone from distribution and production standpoints,” he said, noting that distributors are proffering the product either as part of sports tiers or an a la carte basis.

Although he didn’t disclose any sign-up totals, Rolapp said early returns for personalized video service, NFL Now, have been “positive.”

Accessible across Internet-connected devices, NFL Now enables users to identify their favorite team, fantasy players and video content preferences. The service enables users to dynamically personalize their viewing experiences by delivering customizable news, analysis and highlights. Additionally, NFL Now will provide users with access to a vault of on-demand NFL video content available anywhere.

Rolapp said NFL Media has not been concentrating on working with ISPs on marketing pacts to promote the service, but instead “the focus has been on getting the product where it needs to be. There have been some kinks we’re working through but we’re excited about what users will see as we move toward the start of the season.”

NFL Now Plus ups the ante – for $1.99 per month, subscribers can check out instant in-game highlights, plus gain access to all NFL Films’ compete library, including NFL Network staples America’s Game and A Football Life.

He also noted the service has attracted interest from advertisers, as McDonald’s and Nationwide have joined Verizon and Gillette, which were designated as launch sponsors when NFL commissioner Roger Goodell introduced the products during Super Bowl Week in New York.

“We’re being judicious with sponsors,” he said. “Clearly, demand outstrips inventory.”

Rolapp also pointed to enhanced streaming capabilities for the league’s official wireless service provider. As part of a reported four-year $1 billion renewal, Verizon’s NFL Mobile package will broaden this season, with subscribers gaining access to more streaming content. Not only will telco’s customers continue to be able to stream the NFL’s primetime fare on Sunday, Monday and Thursday night, as well NFL Network and NFL Red Zone, but beginning with the 2014 season, NFL Mobile from Verizon will expand to include access to live CBS and Fox Sunday afternoon games within their home markets, as well as all postseason matchups, including the Super Bowl.