NBC Taps ‘Voice,’ ‘Blindspot’ in Promotional Blitz for ‘Thursday Night Football’

Brian Steinberg
Variety

On NBC this week, the casts of popular shows like “Superstore,” “Law & Order: SVU” and “The Voice”will suddenly seem to have a yen for football.

The actors in those programs, as well as “The Blacklist,” “Blindspot” and NBC’s troika of Dick Wolf “Chicago” procedurals, will all take part in promotions tailored to their series that aim to drive viewership to a new slate of “Thursday Night Football” games that will appear on NBC for the first time starting this week. In a separate vignette, animated characters from the new NBCUniversal-owned Illumination Entertainment-created feature “Sing.”

“This is a huge company priority,” said Jenny Storms, chief marketing officer of NBC Sports, in an interview.

NBC launches its “Thursday Night Football” package as new questions surface about the ability of NFL football broadcasts, the most-watched properties onTV, to keep their audience. With the rise of new technologies that allow consumers access to streaming video, even live sports – long resistant to the ratings erosion that has affected other types of programs – have proven susceptible. NBCUniversal ran into ratings headwinds this summer, for example, when it broadcast the Rio Olympics: While the ratings handily dominated the TV landscape, there was some falloff from the 2012 London Games.

NBC is reportedly paying around $225 million to the NFL, a price similar to what CBS has paid, for a package of five Thursday-night NFL match ups. The network has been seeking around $560,000 for a 30-second ad in the games, though a Variety survey of primetime ad prices suggested some advertisers have paid around $506,000. Fpr the past two seasons, CBS had sole rights to a package of eight games. Now the two networks will split the property.

With all that mind, the network needs to get the word out about the games – and bring younger consumers to them. After studying consumers between 18 and 34, Storms and her team decided to position “Thursday Night Football” to them as a means of getting the weekend started early, and the casts of the various NBC programs will talk up that theme. The casts of both “Superstore” and “The Voice,” for example, will be spotted hanging out watching football rather than tending to other duties. The cohort from “Blindspot” will decode a tattoo telling them to watch “TNF.”

NBC Sports is making other kinds of outreach as well: It will aim to run ads and promos with digital and social-media partners, including AOL, Bleacher Report, EA Sports’ Madden, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Spotify, Twitter, UrbanDaddy, Whistle Sports, Yahoo, and YouTube.

“We recognize that people ar eon the go or might be in different places,” said Storms. Thursday-night football promotions will also “make sure they message you that no matter where you are, you can watch it on the big screen or stream it live.”

The promos are expected to run across NBCU’s portfolio of media properties throughout the rest of 2016, said Storms. “Thursday Night Football” TNF debuts on NBC this Thursday, November 17, with the Carolina Panthers taking on the New Orleans Saints.

 

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