Google Inc.’s YouTube is asking marketers to pay $5.2 million for a full football season’s worth of ads, so long as they agree to shell out the same amount on non-football content, according to people familiar with the matter
The bulk of the available inventory is National Football League programming, though there is some college football content as well, one of the people said.
The 15-second “pre-roll” ads will run at the beginning of in-game and post-game highlight clips that will appear on the NFL’s YouTube page and in the “OneBox” on Google search, some of the people said.
Marketers who want a piece of the football action must also commit to spend a matching sum on “Google Preferred,” a program the company rolled out last year that packages up ad inventory from YouTube’s most popular channels, according to some of the people.
The overall cost of a package covering the football season from Sept. 10 to Feb. 14, therefore, is $10.5 million, with roughly half the money earmarked for Google Preferred inventory.
The amount marketers spend on Google Preferred must represent a 30% increase over the year before, or a $2 million increase in total dollar terms, whichever is higher, according to one of the people. Google plans to sell the space to only a handful of advertisers.
A Google spokeswoman declined to comment.
In January, the tech giant signed an agreement with the NFL that included the launch of an NFL channel on YouTube, which features game previews, in-game highlights and post-game recaps. The pact also included having NFL game highlights and game information such as scores and game stats appear on Google search.
Google agreed to pay the NFL a “multimillion dollar” sum annually for the rights to the channel, said a person familiar with the matter. Google will handle ad sales, and when it recoups its annual fee it will split further revenue with the league.
Professional sports content including big events like the Super Bowl has long been used by TV networks to woo advertisers into agreeing to buy bigger ad packages. Now, Google is employing a similar approach in the online world.
“NFL is so important and unique that it can be used as leverage,” said Martin Cass, chief executive officer of MDC Media Partners.
Having the NFL programming may help YouTube battle other companies competing for online video ad dollars, such as Facebook and Twitter. Google is currently meeting advertisers as it ramps up to make a formal presentation on April 29at its “NewFront” event.
Last year, Google’s online-video unit made some headway in its attempts to snare some TV ads dollars, ad buyers said, by offering a way for advertisers to buy only the higher quality inventory on the site. EMarketer estimates that YouTube will account for about 20% of the fast-growing online video ad market this year, which is expected to top $7.7 billion.
Still YouTube has been under pressure to grow and was not profitable as of February, according to an earlier report by the Wall Street Journal.
There are some potential risks for Google: it’s unclear how its NFL sales push will sit with existing NFL advertisers. One ad agency executive pitched on the idea described it as a way for brands to align themselves with the NFL without paying for TV ads.
Marketers have a variety of options in buying NFL programming from YouTube. Especially deep-pocketed advertisers can shell out $15.7 million for a “category exclusive” for the full football season, including the matching Google Preferred spending, one of the people familiar with the matter said. That would make them the only auto advertiser or telecom advertiser, for example.
Purchasing postseason inventory alone costs $2.7 million, including the matching amount. The $1 million Super Bowl package is only available to advertisers that purchase the full season package, the people said.
Jack Marshall contributed to this article.
Apr 22, 2015