NBC Sports is looking to give fans another reason to tune-in to Sunday Night Football (SNF) with the debut of a free pick contest with real cash prizes.
The SNF team is calling Thursday’s Green Bay Packers/Chicago Bears tilt, the first game of the 2019 NFL regular season. But the pick competition will be made available to fans prior to the start of Sunday’s Pittsburgh Steelers/New England Patriots contest.
“Sunday Night 7,” as the game is called, is similar to other predictive gaming efforts that were tested around the NFL during the preseason. Such contests pose questions to fans pertaining to in-game outcomes, such as what team will score first, what quarterback will throw for the most yards, and what receiver will have the most receptions.
“Sunday Night 7” will be free to play, but features $100,000 in guaranteed weekly prizes and $2 million in rewards over the course of the season.
The NFL free-to-play prediction game, Sunday Night 7, is a weekly game that features seven-question contests focused on the upcoming NBC game, providing viewers with a new way to engage, and additional rooting interests every Sunday evening,” said NBC Sports in a statement.
SNF is NBC’s marquee program and serves as a major driver of advertising dollars for the broadcaster. The network says the Sunday night NFL program has been the top-rated primetime show in the US for eight straight years.
Although predictive gaming isn’t wagering because participants don’t risk any of their own capital, leagues, networks, and teams view these offerings as ways to boost audience engagement. Data confirm that fans that are financially committed to a game are more likely to watch that competition on television than those without a stake in the outcome.
NBC’s “Sunday Night 7” isn’t the network’s first effort at broadcast “gamification.” The broadcaster offers similar predicting gaming contests when it’s airing the English Premier League (EPL), NASCAR, and PGA Golf.
NBC Sports Washington, the network’s affiliate in the nation’s capitol, ran a free predictive contest with cash prizes during the Washington Redskins recently completed NFL exhibition season. Top performers in that game earned cash rewards of up to $1,000.
The Los Angeles Rams also tinkered with a similar competition, known as “Rams Pick ‘Em,” during the preseason, but cash wasn’t on the line in that game.
There are sure to be plenty of competitors in SNF’s “Sunday Night 7.” Last year, the program averaged total audience delivery of 19.6 million viewers per broadcast, and was the dominant program in the 18-49 age range, which includes prized demographics such as millennials and Gen Z. In 2018, SNF’s viewership was 52 percent above the most-viewed scripted show, CBS’s “The Big Bang Theory.”
After this Sunday’s game, six of SNF’s 2019 broadcasts involve teams from Los Angeles and Chicago, the second- and third-largest US media markets, respectively. Another three feature the Dallas Cowboys, one of the most watched teams in the league. The defending Super Bowl champions, the New England Patriots, also appear on SNF three times this year.