Today begins the National Football League playoffs, a three-week event that has become a big deal for marketers and advertisers across the country and around the world.

Consider the fact that the two most-watched primetime series this fall were Sunday Night Football on NBC (averaging 22.5 million viewers) and Thursday Night Football on CBS (17.6 million in eight games), plus the fact that all 10 NFL playoff games are nationally broadcast, and you have a situation in which large amounts of people are going to be glued to their televisions for entire weekends throughout January.

Related: iPad regularly gets free advertising from NFL

There are more options on television than ever before in terms of channels and programming, so it’s rare for marketers to have the opportunity to catch such a large audience at once. Therefore, brands will be paying big not just for the upcoming Super Bowl in February, but for the NFL playoffs as well.

The largest industries expected to be represented will, as usual, be those in the automotive, insurance and motion picture categories, with financial and technological services also expected to spend big on ads.


Here’s how the various networks carrying playoff games are expected to fare in the first couple weeks of the NFL playoffs:

  • ESPN is broadcasting the first game of the postseason for the second consecutive year on Saturday, January 9, with the Houston Texans hosting the Kansas City Chiefs. This year, however, the network is simulcasting the game on ABC as well, which could significantly increase the TV audience and make it the first game broadcast on ABC since Super Bowl XL in 2006. ESPN said in a statement that it was “very well sold” for its advertising spots.
  • NBC has one playoff game on Wild Card weekend (the early Sunday matchup featuring the Seahawks and Vikings) and one on Divisional Playoffs weekend (hosted by the Arizona Cardinals). NBC’s ads were sold out for the first game and nearly sold out for the second in the week leading up to the playoff’s opening weekend.
  • FOX sold out its games on the first two weekends quickly, and was expected to sell out slots for its NFC Championship broadcast within the week after Wild Card weekend.
  • CBS has only a few slots available as well, including some for Super Bowl 50. Those spots were not expected to last for long.

It’s going to be interesting to see what types of strategies brands take with their advertising this year, as ads during the playoffs and especially the Super Bowl always come with high expectations from viewers.