With One Month Until the Super Bowl, CBS Is Quietly Racking Up Robust Big Game Ad Sales

Super Bowl LIII is exactly one month away, and even though CBS has been unusually quiet about its Big Game ad sales this year—now that former chairman and CEO Les Moonves is no longer around to tout his company’s progress during earnings calls and other public appearances—the network’s haul is expected to be as robust as ever.

With one month to go, the Big Game market has once again been strong for CBS, according to sources familiar with the network’s Super Bowl ad sales.

Jo Ann Ross and her NFL team, which includes John Bogusz, evp, sports sales and marketing, and Tony Taranto, svp of NFL sales, typically stay under the radar whenever they are selling the Super Bowl. Instead, they would leave the public proclamations to Moonves, who would boast about CBS’ Super Bowl ad haul. Three years ago, he noted that the network was holding back a few slots to sell at the last minute—at top dollar—for an advertiser who wanted to get into the game.

But the embattled Moonves left the company in September, and his replacement, interim CEO Joseph Ianniello, has taken a more muted approach to publicly discussing Super Bowl ad sales.

Despite the change up top, CBS is in a similar position with one month to go that it was three years ago with Super Bowl 50: well-sold, with limited inventory still available, mostly in the game’s second half.

The network has been securing north of $5 million for this year’s 30-second Super Bowl spots, which would put it in the same ballpark as NBC’s haul during last year’s game.

Last year, NBCUniversal collected around $500 million in Super Bowl-related advertising revenue on game day—a single-day record for a media company. That included $350 million worth of in-game advertising, with 30-second spots averaging north of $5 million.

The Super Bowl market has been very active since Thanksgiving, according to sources, buoyed by an increase in ratings for this year’s NFL games, which were up 5 percent overall in total viewers, and the fact that most of the focus on this season has been on the quality of play on the field, and not the player protests, as had been the case for the past two years. That said, advertiser demand had been as strong as ever for this season’s NFL games, even prior to the ratings rebound.

While many of the brands appearing in this year’s game remain under wraps—for the latest news on Super Bowl LIII ads, check out Adweek’s Super Bowl Ad Tracker—the telecast will again include an exclusive beer advertiser (likely to once again be Anheuser-Busch) and feature a strong presence from movie studios and tech companies.

No six-second ads have been sold for this year’s Super Bowl.

CBS is seeing demand for new competition series The World’s Best, which will air after the game, on par with that for the post-Super Bowl 50 special live airing of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. The World’s Best is emceed by The Late Late Show host James Corden, who is a big draw for the network’s clients.

While buyers are wondering how CBS’ “contractual impasse” with Nielsen will affect their advertising buys—now that CBS has lost access to the ratings data that most of its advertising is transacted on—there will be no such issue during Super Bowl LIII. As always, Super Bowl ads do not have ratings guarantees, so that in-game ad revenue won’t be affected, whether or not CBS and Nielsen have come to terms by then.

Still, both CBS and buyers hope that the Super Bowl ratings will rebound from last year, when a linear audience of 103.4 million tuned into Super Bowl LII on NBC, making it the lowest-rated Big Game telecast since 2009, and a 7 percent decline from Fox’s average a year earlier.

But NBC’s Total Audience Delivery metric—which rolls up the total viewer numbers from a telecast’s linear, digital and out-of-home viewing—increased that number to 118.2 million viewers across all platforms.


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