CBS, WBD ‘Essentially Sold Out’ Men’s March Madness Ads in Biggest Year Yet

The ad sales teams at Warner Bros. Discovery and CBS are dancing their way through March.

Ahead of Selection Sunday on March 17, the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament’s advertising inventory is “essentially sold out” across both companies.

“This will be the best revenue tournament we’ve ever had,” Jon Diament, evp of advertising sales at Warner Bros. Discovery, told reporters on Wednesday. “We’re setting revenue records here.”

While the companies did not share specific sports marketing revenue numbers, the tournament will have surpassed last year’s $1 billion haul.

According to John Bogusz, evp of CBS Sports sales at Paramount Advertising, volume is up high single-digits in terms of dollars, and pricing is up mid- to -high single-digits. In the last several years, prices ranged from a “couple hundred thousand dollars” in the First Four to well over $2 million for a 30-second spot in the championship.

There’s a “handful” of units left, according to Diament, which the companies are holding back for last-minute advertisers, with a few windows having scattered availability. The Final Four and championship games are “basically” sold out.

CBS and WBD jointly broadcast the tournament each year, and this year TBS will broadcast the Final Four and national championship. All 67 games will run across TBS, CBS, TNT and truTV, with all games also streamed on NCAA March Madness Live (MML). CBS games will stream on Paramount+, and for the first time, WBD games will also stream on Max under the B/R Sports add-on.

Viewers will see the same ads on Max and Paramount+ as on the linear buy. MML includes “mostly” the same advertiser list but in different commercial blocks.

The companies started selling with only 50% inventory available, as champions program partners and corporate partners have locked in multi-year deals. Combined, the companies have around 20 corporate partners for the tournament this year, up from last year’s 17.

“We see live sports that are high profile like this being more sought after in the upfront, where people are gobbling up inventory, looking for audience guarantees way in advance as opposed to scatter,” said Diament. “You take the risk when you buy something last minute that you’re going to be charged a huge premium.”

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