BOULDER, Colorado—NBC aired its first Sunday Night Football Broadcast 6 August, 2006. ABC’s longstanding juggernaut, Monday Night Football, moved from network TV where it had aired since 1970 to ESPN. While ESPN, powered by ABC and Disney, has still maintained very favorable ratings, Sunday Night Football commands some of the most valuable airtime of all fall programming.
According to Sports Business Digest’s analysis of the 2010 Fall TV line up, Sunday Night Football topped US$400,000 for each 30-second ad, which was up 22% from 2009 and led all fall programming, with the exception of American Idol, as the most expensive airtime for advertisers. The ad premium is primarily attributable to “SNF” being a program most likely watched live and not recorded.
Clearly, the success of Sunday Night Football has been enjoyed by both viewers and networks, but has it benefited the hotel industry? Like viewership, was the appeal of traveling for the Monday Night Football game shifted to Sunday Night?
To help answer these questions, we analyzed 10 seasons of Monday Night and Sunday Night Football data from 2001 through 2010. Using the daily data set of STR, the parent company of HotelNewsNow.com, we analyzed each host town’s game-night hotel performance. As each NFL stadium is uniquely located in the surrounding metropolitan area, we preformed radial searches relative to each stadiums locale. The resulting average stadium market incorporated approximately 60 hotels within a five-mile radius of the stadium.
For this analysis, a simple occupancy breakdown would not suffice because, in general, hotel dynamics between Sunday night and Monday night will differ regardless of NFL games, due primarily to corporate business travel patterns. Additionally, hotel economic cycles ebb and flow more than football fandom, so we needed to avoid potential economic abnormalities that could skew the data. As such, we created a “control group” to benchmark against each host MNF/SNF market. The control group is comprised of all 31 NFL markets (remember the Giants and Jets share a market) and each host city’s occupancy is indexed against an aggregate set of all the other pro football towns in America. This helps normalize economic noise to more reasonably test the impact of the Sunday Night Football phenomenon.
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When it comes to local occupancy, Sunday Night Football rules!
Below is a chart featuring hotel data for Monday Night Football before Sunday Night Football aired (ABC 2001 – 2005 seasons) versus Monday Night Football after Sunday Night Football aired (ESPN 2006- 2010 seasons). Again, the index represents the host city’s occupancy performance benchmarked against all NFL cities (i.e. a 131% occupancy index indicates the host city had a 31% occupancy premium over all NFL cities).
The chart above shows prior to the airing of Sunday Night Football, Monday Night Football host cities enjoyed an occupancy premium of slightly more than 31%. After Monday Night Football moved to ESPN, the host city occupancy premium dropped by approximately 1.2%, which isn’t terribly significant, but yields the question: Did the hotel demand shift to Sunday night?
The chart below incorporates Sunday Night Football host city data for seasons 2006-2010.
Highlighted by the graph above, Sunday Night Football host cities garnered a 36% occupancy premium, which not only outpaced Monday Night Football host cities during the same five-season period but also outpaced Monday Night Football prior to SNF ever airing.
Anecdotally, the data appears to suggest Sunday Night Football host cities garnered more hotel demand than Monday Night Football cities ever did in the past decade.
There are reasons for this trend outside of football alone. One obvious explanation is Sunday can be made into a long weekend and fans do not miss as much work. Another factor that we will explore in part two of the article series: Sunday night hotels are cheaper … or are they?
Keep reading for more articles on the Sunday Night Football phenomenon, including whether hotels do better if the home team wins, and what teams bring the most hotel demand with them.