SBJ/June 30-July 6, 2014/Media

CBS puts Thursday ads in line with ‘SNF’

CBS’s asking price and ratings guarantee for the new Thursday night NFL package make it the league’s second-most expensive offering, trailing only NBC’s Sunday night package — the highest-rated prime-time show on broadcast television last year.

Sources said CBS executives have been asking for around $600,000 per 30-second spot for its Thursday night telecasts. That figure is below NBC’s “Sunday Night Football,” which is commanding closer to $700,000 per 30-second spot for the upcoming season, but above ESPN, which is asking around $500,000 for “Monday Night Football,” the NFL’s other prime-time series.

SBJ Podcast:
Media writer John Ourand and editor Tom Stinson talk about CBS's Thursday night NFL package, as well as last week's Supreme Court decision concerning Aereo and what it means.


NBC has the rights to next year’s Super Bowl and has been packaging some of its “Sunday Night Football” commitments with spots in the big game. NBC is asking for a record $4.5 million per 30-second spot during the Super Bowl. Fox sold spots for as high as $4 million per 30-second spot during this year’s game.

NFL Network, which had Thursdays to itself, will now share eight games with CBS.
Photo by: AP IMAGES
It’s not only the ad prices that CBS is putting on par with NBC. Sources say that CBS also is guaranteeing at least a 12 rating on its Thursday night games, which is nearly triple the 4.4 rating that NFL Network’s Thursday night schedule earned last year. By comparison, NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” averaged a 12.8 rating last season, NBC’s second-best viewership since it acquired the NFL package prior to the 2006 NFL season.

ESPN averaged an 8.6 rating for “Monday Night Football” last season, the cable network’s third-highest rating since it acquired the “Monday Night Football” package before the 2006 season.

The sports media industry is especially interested in the performance of “Thursday Night Football” on CBS. In February, CBS signed a deal to pay $275 million for the rights to an eight-game package of games that previously was only offered on NFL Network. The eight games will be simulcast on NFL Network. CBS also will produce eight other late-season games, featuring its top talent like Jim Nantz and Phil Simms, that will appear exclusively on NFL Network. The $600,000 price tag and 12-rating guarantee are only for the games carried by CBS and simulcast on NFL Network.

The league holds a one-year option on the deal and plans to take the package to the open market in the next year or two, where it is expected to draw interest from all the broadcast networks as well as ESPN and Turner. If CBS is able to increase the package’s ratings to where it’s on par with “Sunday Night Football,” the cost of the package will grow in line with it. NBC pays an average of $950 million per year for the rights to “Sunday Night Football.” That figure is for a full-season schedule, plus playoffs.

So far, CBS said the market is active and described the initial response to “Thursday Night Football” ad sales as positive.

CBS’s pitch is twofold. It’s selling advertisers on prime-time Thursday nights; CBS has been the top-rated broadcaster on Thursday nights, a standing that it believes will allow it to draw in more casual fans than other networks. The network also is selling advertisers timing. Its executives believe that advertising messages are more effective leading into the weekend rather than coming at the end of the weekend. Thus, its message to advertisers and consumers is, “Football Starts Here.”

CBS has used this message in its pitch to Hollywood studios, for example, that are looking to drive attendance over the weekend. It also is using the pitch on retailers looking to promote weekend sales.

CBS has not yet announced the advertisers that have bought positions in “Thursday Night Football.” Sources said Lexus has taken a presenting sponsorship for the network’s halftime show.

There was a divergence of opinions from the buying community. Some, like John Turner of Zenith Media’s sponsorship intelligence unit, expressed optimism. But CBS’s ad sales efforts have met with some pushback from the advertising community, which views three nights of prime-time NFL programming as creating a glut in the marketplace.

“Everybody wants the NFL, but you start to wonder about how many new brands can afford the cost of entry,” said Tom McGovern, president of Optimum Sports.

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