- NBC made millions from Super Bowl ads from Netflix, Amazon, HBO, and Hulu.
- But as the network tried to use the big game on Sunday night to promote its new shows and its massive bet on the 2018 Winter Olympics, it was also encouraging people to ditch live TV.
- It’s symbolic of a unique conundrum that TV networks face: Streaming services need to run ads during big live events on TV, but they ultimately threaten to hammer the TV ad business.
Netflix handed NBC upwards of $5 million for a Super Bowl ad on Sunday night telling an audience of 100 million or so people to stream an out-of-nowhere sequel to the 2008 sci-fi film “Cloverfield” after the game – that is, stream that instead of watching NBC’s new and way-hyped episode of “This Is Us.”
All told, they streaming services most likely paid over $20 million on advertising meant to encourage people to watch TV without commercials instead of tuning in to, say, a major sporting event.
Meanwhile, NBC’s ads during the game showed what it wants people to do: stick around for a super-emotional episode of “This Is Us” and tune in to the 2018 Winter Olympics, which start next weekend. NBC is also hoping you’ll remember to watch its coming “Friday Night Lights”-“Hamilton” hybrid, “Rise.”
That show looks great (so does “Jack Ryan,” by the way), and the Olympics are always magical – if you remember to interrupt whatever show you’re binging to turn them on, that is.
All this makes for an awkward pairing. But what’s NBC going to do? Turn away money from Netflix, Amazon, or HBO?
At least in the case of Hulu’s ad, the show’s in the family, as NBC’s parent owns a stake in the service. But even then, more people subscribing to Hulu is likely to mean fewer who will keep watching live, ad-supported network TV habitually.
It also shows us the power of live commercial TV events like the Super Bowl. Where else can you tell the whole country at once about a new show? The answer is nowhere.
The problem is that it also serves as a poignant reminder that this won’t be the case forever. The NFL’s ratings are down, and NBC’s spending $7.8 billion to lock up the Olympics through 2032 is a gamble. Even the Super Bowl is steadily losing viewership.
So the question for NBC is: Are you helping accelerate your decline, or just making the most of a bad situation while you still can?
There’s no good answer.