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The NFL season — somehow, some way — is actually kicking off tonight in Kansas City with NBC’s broadcast of the Chiefs game against the Houston Texans. The return of pro football (plus select college games) is coming not a moment too soon for a television advertising business trying to end this tempestuous year on a positive note.
Of all the parts of the media landscape wiped out by the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, live sports is the most precious. The multibillion-dollar sports TV ad business has had a hole blown out of it, though the return of golf, soccer, baseball and NBA basketball has brought encouraging results.
As the NFL returns on NBC and networks plan two dozen college telecasts this weekend, though, football carries even more weight than usual because TV production is still waylaid by the pandemic. Networks have not even announced the completion of their upfront advertising sales for 2020-21 — usually a cornerstone that is laid by the end of the spring.
In a report Thursday, veteran Wall Street analyst Michael Nathanson of MoffettNathanson emphasized that NFL ratings “are the biggest driver of network ratings and ultimately where the ad dollars flow.” In 2019 (excluding the Super Bowl), he …
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